Seventy years old, dying like the house.
Repairman just shakes his head.
We know it well, my brother and I,
the olive-colored grates in the floor,
in the wall between front room and hall.
Marbles and jacks rolled down inside.
We’d lie on our bellies to retrieve them,
blue pilot light way down below.
On Canasta Club nights, we peeked
through the grate at the old ladies in dresses
laughing, gabbing, smoking, dealing.
“Go to bed!” our father roared when he
caught us awake in our footie pajamas.
Who could sleep with all that noise?
The furnace made sounds of its own,
a woomph when it cycled on,
popcorn crackles, fire on steel.
Half deaf, our father hears nothing now,
but he feels the cold down in his bones
as he searches for the pilot light.