Leonine, They Walk Across the Embers

My father, ever the pragmatist
used to voluntarily sleep in jail cells
of one-horse towns
when riding his motorcycle
between his home in Port Chester, New York
and Ohio's Bowling Green State University
during the time when love was free
and law enforcement was on our side
as long as you weren't colored
and on the receiving end of a firehose.
He tells that tale as if he lived on the fringe
a la 'Easy Rider', but I know it was
merely the primordial state of his frugal nature.
I let him have his folklore, though.
Compassion trumps being right.

He's a social worker now;
works with the "developmentally delayed"
as the latest textbooks and experts call it.
I jokingly say that my blue-collar occupation
is similar in that sense
but I envy the depth of his dedication.
Last week, when he turned 65
he told me that an autistic man
he'd met once eleven years ago
reappeared in his roster of clients
remembering the date of his birthday
and the day of the week on which they'd met.
His grip on the wheel tightened
as he recounted the scenario.
"That's common," I said. "Like in 'Rain Man'."
He pulled his eyes from the road
and replied, "But it's never happened to you."

For that moment
my father
(lover of the forgotten
bride of Christ
cell block sleeper)
seemed scared
of what his Good Book can't explain
and what I already know:
There is genius all around us
pulling wrenches, drooling free.

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