When I was eight months old, Jackson Pollock
stuck his hand in my crib and let me squeeze
one of his fingers. He was in my parents' kitchen
in Hoboken, where we lived for three years;
he said the new linoleum reminded him
of one of his paintings. Every time my mother
tells the story, she always adds, "this is true";
but my mother can't tell stories.
And my father has stopped remembering.
What never changes is my hand touching Pollock's
and who was watching; my parents and my father's
best friend from childhood—Nick Carone,
a painter who had brought along his famous pal
partly to show off, partly in the hope
Pollock would notice that the work my parents
loyally hung in our living room was Nick's.
But all Pollock cared about, my mother says,
was how much beer was left, how much money
Nick could con my father into giving them,
until the bottles on the table clinked happily
and the artists looked at each other
like lovers who had forgotten our world.
Then Nick placed his hands on my father's shoulders,
Pollock called over to my mother,
who had gone to my crib. Without looking up
she broke her train of baby talk to say goodbye,
but watched my father follow them out
into the hall and stand at the top of the stairs,
waiting as both men began the long walk down.
It's at this point my mother always stops to ask,
Do I remember we lived on the fifth floor?
And by now I've learned to answer, yes I do.