“After We Saw What There Was to See” by Lawrence Raab

After we saw what there was to see
we went off to buy souvenirs, and my father
waited by the car and smoked. He didn’t need
a lot of things to remind him where he’d been.
Why do you want so much stuff?
he might have asked us. “Oh, Ed,” I can hear
my mother saying, as if that took care of it.

After she died I don’t think he felt any reason
to go back through all those postcards, not to mention
the glossy booklets about the Singing Tower
and the Alligator Farm, the painted ashtrays
and lucite paperweights, everything we carried home
and found a place for, then put away
in boxes, then shoved far back in our closets.

He’d always let my mother keep track of the past,
and when she was gone—why should that change?
Why did I want him to need what he’d never needed?
I can see him leaning against our yellow Chrysler
in some parking lot in Florida or Maine.
It’s a beautiful cloudless day. He glances at his watch,
lights another cigarette, looks up at the sky.

“After We Saw What There Was to See” by Lawrence Raab, from The History of Forgetting. © Penguin Poets, 2009.

“Regret” by Lawrence Raab

Every day there’s something old
to feel sorry about—
what I should have done and didn’t,
or what I did, and kept on doing.

I want to believe
everyone’s forgotten by now.
Then I picture them thinking back.

And those who’ve died
and earned the wisdom death allows
just shake their heads and sigh.
“Very funny,” my father would say

after my sister and I played
some cruel little joke on him.
“Ha, ha,” he’d add,
to let us know he got the point.

We want to forget
until we start to forget.
We want the past to change,
and we want it back.

“Enough is enough,”
my father used to say
to tell us it was over.

“Regret” by Lawrence Raab, from The History of Forgetting. © Penguin Poets, 2009.