For My Father / Pilar Quintana

On the day my mother died, you said:
It should have been me.
I comforted you—no.
But I knew what you meant.

She was the strong one.
You were the dreamer.
You built businesses that could not succeed.
She pulled us out of bankruptcy.

Who would rein us in now?
Lick our wounds when we fell?
Scold us when we stood
too close to the edge…

We had let go the anchor
and set ourselves adrift.
Nothing but the stars to guide us.
And all we saw in stars were pretty patterns.

You left my mother once and went
to Florida, following a star.
I asked you years later
how you did it.

How did you have the courage
to pick up the pieces of
the mess you had left behind,
to walk over it, the regret--

The regret, how did you live with
the regret… You smiled.
You said, you think too much.
You just do it.

On the day you died, I looked at you
and whispered, not yet…
you have not taught me yet
how to dream.

How to ride wild horses bareback,
fall headlong in the thorns and
pluck them, as if they were roses
from the edge of the cliff.

How to read the stars
--dim they were now--
and believe they revealed
secrets in their pretty patterns.

It should have been me…
But you were wrong.
And oh how beautiful your errors.
How powerful your consent to flaws.

You stand on your thorny cliff,
pluck a single rose,
and hold it out to me.

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