Bruce Taylor: At Family Lake – for Phil & Judy

My father-in-law, 86,                                                 
in his terrycloth robe and hat,
me reading in the shade
a book not good but thick

him nodding through another
one of his daily dozen naps
looking like the preacher he is
finally at his own prayers.

Our wives, the mother and daughter
of them, loll in the shallows speaking
so earnestly we are certain it cannot
be of us. Children and grandchildren

doze and float over and in the lazy
wake an August Sunday afternoon
may sometimes on vacation make.
Years or so ago he and my wife’s

mother were the scandal of some frigid
Minnesota town, a torrid affair or platonic
companionship or that something somewhere
in between the whole town didn’t want to envy.

He the local parson she the diligent
but disappointed accountant’s wife,
him with his bow ties and suspenders.
she in her simple longing to be loved.

I never got the details, but it was “fate”
as she tells it and a leap she‘s never
regretted, never has never will.
When from across the lake from the far

shore like a thunder rumble
two boats — cigar or cigarette —
I can never decide — but the kind only
smugglers and presidents can afford –

hungry with appetites  for what folks
like us shouldn’t longer want to imagine.
Last Easter after service Phil glowed
into my kitchen ready for his Bloody Mary

“The older I get, the closer my relationship
to God,” he said like I’d say “Christ! There’s
a woman in my Freshman Composition Class…”
or, “How about that kicker on them Vikings?”

Still the boats are shapes, a mere suggestion of
a dull ache’s encroachment to the heart’s cavity,
already the swell wells up around our wives.
who shield their eyes in the sun’s late salutation.

I’m half older than my wife as he is to her mother,
a family not so much extended as exploded,
between us all we’ve chalked up six marriages.
The boats are larger now but not quite yet loud.

The lake itself has gone to the blue green of the eyes
of the women we love. One gull hovers early at
the appointed spot for Wheat-Thins or Wonder Bread.
The boats encroach at their lowest throttle

each with a young buck in Ray-Bans and a Speedo,
each with a woman in a skimpy sarong, amberly
tanned in the late afternoon’s sun.
They cruise so close my children could touch them

and stir Phil from his saintly slumber
who unnods, almost yawns, raises the brim
of his hat above his eyes’ surprised at seeing
anything again and clinks his glass to ask

for another nearly Virgin Bloody Mary and
another Wheat-Thin with something salty on it.
“The guys with the big boats,” he says as fact,
“always get the good looking babes.”