James Valvis




I told my father not to take out a second mortgage
to buy that above-ground swimming pool.
The boon times wouldn’t last, I said,
and if we went in too deep we wouldn’t make it.
He listened to what I had to say,
then told me, “Well, your mother wants it.”
I reminded him she also wanted to play Bingo
seven nights every week all year long.
She wanted expensive rugs for each room,
new furniture, a video cassette library.
“Wait until you’re married,” he told me.
Later, with everything collapsing around us,
my father checked the pH in that pool,
holding a vial up to sunlight,
as if it he might find the right chemical balance
to save our house, his life’s work.
He could never get it right.
The chlorine was strong enough to gag you.
If my mother ever went in the pool, I didn’t see it.
The only person I saw get into that pool,
after that first summer, was my father,
wading around to remove fallen leaves.
My parents sold our house for half its worth.
When those new owners moved in,
first thing they did was tear down the pool.
I noticed it was gone when I walked by
the second of three times I was homeless.