By Patrick T. Reardon


Drive Chronicles Avenue straight out

of downtown for three miles to the

railroad bridge, empty as a Roman

ruin, turn right toward the spray-paint

chaos of the Grass Lake rocks, right

again onto Esther Road, to 135, and

there’s tight-wound Pa sitting on the

dusk porch while nervous fireflies,

trespassers, skitter, knowing nothing

else, around the maypole of his chair.


From time to time, he slaps out with

a grimed 1940’s-gas station flyswatter,

and, when he connects, steps daintily on

the stunned creature with the sole of his

right boot, drags that sole toward him

along the porch wood, leaving, godlike,

quick-dying sparkle.  We keep out of his way.


Stolid Ma encases herself in jobs to be

done as if rest is a gap in breathing.


Her grave is out on 12th Street, just east

of Mystic Boulevard, in the plot she shares

with Pa as she shared their bed of relief.


Pa died slowly, silently, from a wasting,

pale as smoke, fearful even more of death

than of life, with no caressing god to

provide welcome, just a blank white he’d

glimpse here and there, now and then,

and shudder, lock up inward.  No escape.


Garden of Eden Groceries, the family firm,

still opens and closes each day, weekends

included, Christmas excepted.  Pa ran a tight

ship, each an assigned post: sister, brother,

niece, nephew, in-law, cousin, crowd of

vague similar faces: Jane-Joan-June-Jean,

Garry-Larry-Gerry-Joe.  Everyone’s head turned.


Ma wanted me out of there, oldest and

a girl.  Pa had an eye.  I was the one sent

out from the store each day to travel up

and down Babylon City, buying what we

needed, arranging deliveries to Holy Galilee

Hospital, the Tyre County Department of

Corrections and City Hall where Pa knew

a guy in the Sewer Department who gave

a filing job to Leah, a year younger than

me — Ma’s idea again — which Pa used for

inside information about street work, bids

and free bricks until, after Pa and Ma were

dead and gone, she quit and took the same

job for a lawyer across the street on the

6th floor of Maccabees Tower and hated

it just as much until one noon, while I was

sitting on the bank of the Babylon River

seven blocks away, she took herself up

to the roof and jumped her freedom flight

of wonder-filled license to the downtown

pavement in front of three teenagers

from west suburban El Dorado.


“Lot of good it did her,” said Father

George, the youngest of the boys, a John

Paul II priest, quickly shushed by the sisters

who knew proper etiquette. No pedophile,

he — too empty for lust.  I slapped him.


Now, evenings, if you drive to Esther

Road, you’ll find me on the dusk porch in

Pa’s old chair.  I leave the lightning bugs

alone.  Leah whispers in my ear, but I can’t

burn the house down.  Where would I live? 

It is the last Sunday of Ordinary Time.


Patrick T. Reardon



This poem originally appeared in The Write Launch in September, 2020. Later, it was included in my 2021 book Darkness on the Face of the Deep, from Kelsay Books.

Written by : Patrick T. Reardon

For more than three decades Patrick T. Reardon was an urban affairs writer, a feature writer, a columnist, and an editor for the Chicago Tribune. In 2000 he was one of a team of 50 staff members who won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. Now a freelance writer and poet, he has contributed chapters to several books and is the author of Faith Stripped to Its Essence. His website is

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