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Tom Laverty – Saginaw Song

Tom Laverty


Saginaw Song

So it seems that my premonition has come to an end. All that I remember of my father has
gone away with my memory of the rains of childhood. All of his whiskey and sad country
songs have their place in my past. But even for this, I’m not a changed man. The smell of his
breath and fingers, old spice with a cigarette and whiskey, have been replaced with the curry
and incense of this motel room. Perhaps I never knew him. Perhaps he never knew me.
Maybe we never knew ourselves and the days we shared were myths.

With schoolmates, I caught ditch-frogs under the Michigan willows. And these, my
childhood friends, have all died, and their ghosts linger like pale shadows in the thicket
surrounding the gates of my village. When we were seven a flood filled the cornfield behind
my mother’s house. We made boats from the dead trees and sailed from one end of the field
to the other. With the dying cornstalks and cotton sheets we made banners and sails. The
wind told us where to go, but we always landed on the shore, again. Again, and again we
landed on the shore. And the sun went down, and we would walk home.

In the morning the sun would rise through the trees and the scatter-bugs would make
little constellations in the purple sky. It was something we looked forward to without
knowing. The quiet humming of these bugs in the morning, the afternoon ditch-frogs, the
smell of pork sandwiches in the evening. Nothing could stop the summer from coming, or
the five of us from living amongst the gentle humidity of it. The summer lasted forever
when our hands were small. We did not know that the days ahead brought black skies, that
the constellations of flies would die in heaps, that the people we loved would die because
their hearts would stop beating.

From this motel room I will walk to the nearest bar where I will tell the nearest man that I
am in love with his girlfriend. And by his reaction I will live the rest of my life; with or
without my father or the setting of my childhood suns. I still remember the plum sun, the
Michigan willows, the hands of my mother beating tortillas flat against the kitchen table. I
remember them as if they are still happening, as if they never happened.

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