In some ways my childhood homelife
was not unlike the sit-com Cleavers’ –
we lived in a house in the USA with a yard, slept in beds, and ate
On the other hand, my mother didn’t wear pearls
as she dumped overflowing ashtrays
into a pedal-operated plastic receptacle,
my father watching TV, cursing LBJ, baring his tobacco-stained teeth,
much less restrained in the den than Ward in tie and cardigan,
turning the pages of the afternoon newspaper, which happily
we had in those days.
In fact, Ward and June never watched TV or talked politics.
He never held his boys down, arms pinned, to tickle them
as they laughed hysterically in anguished howls on the floor.
There were apparently no black people where the Cleavers lived,
no juke joints on the edge of town, no bootleg whiskey,
no Wilson Pickett records, no Muddy Waters, no mojo magic.
Mr. Cleaver played golf; my father flew airplanes,
performed snap rolls and loops and hammerhead stalls.
On rare occasions I accompanied him in the cockpit.
More often, though, I was down below, neck straining,
calmly watching his daring acrobatics,
like the son of a trapeze artist who knows the act by heart.
It was an expensive hobby, but one well-suited to
an adrenaline junkie, paradoxically
terrified by the thought of undertow dragging him out to sea to drown.
Like the Cleavers, my parents never divorced,
Died, in fact, in the very same bed a decade apart,
Next to a window overlooking our overgrown lawn.
No tombstones bear the Cleavers’ names;
alive and well in reruns, they relive their lives
in thirty-minute arcs resolved with smiles.