My Father Returns

I saw my father, shortly after his funeral.
On the side of the road in Bull Lake, Montana.
Puffs of white hair streaming over his ears
like manic packs of sea anemones, latching
onto his red Volunteer Fire Department hat.
He kept his face away towards a pasture,
away from me, as I sped by. Gravel and salt
rock rang soft pings against the undercarriage.

I saw my father again, in the Valley,
pumping gas at the corner 76, his hat worn
thin and frayed as his frame. This time
I stopped. “I don’t remember those jokes,
you used to tell. The ones that ended
with ‘And then they laughed’.” The ones
where he beamed his pride in enticing
laughter from others. “Tell me the joke
about quantum time. The one that explains
why you are here and aren’t at once.”

I told him a joke, but I lost the punchline
somewhere after the wake, where
the guy from The Yaak told me he was
the last one with my father, and he helped
me see my father again, short of breath,
scared, but then still and calm. The guy
repairs watches for a living, and gave me
his card. If I needed any watches fixed
he’d gladly do so for free. The punchline
is in there somewhere. Fixed
watches tick forward. The man
pumping gas was not my father. And then I laughed.