Vox Populi

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Philip F. Clark: The Fathers

I steadied you in the bathroom as you pissed,

drunk and shaking. I was the only one

who would make sure you didn’t fall.

You kept talking about the friends you lost

in the war.

One morning, you took me to school in the cold.

I was seven. “Hold my hand,” you said, but even then

I could tell it made you feel strange. Now I am

holding hands all over the place, and every other

flesh I can hold onto. Your hand turned pages.

When I was ten, you took me to watch

the boxing matches. I hated the smoke

and punches and sweat. I asked to leave.

The other fathers knowingly

nodded as you walked me out of the room.

That night you simply read your paper.

You smoked. I went to bed, listening for you,

but only heard punch after punch.

Years later, I held you again in the hospital,

walking in silence down the long hall; eyes

watching our slow progress

toward the latrine. I can still smell the ammonia.

Then you were gone.

You dropped dead in the street, while I

was home choosing a tie, or maybe I was

reading, or trying to call you. After all,

it had been years.

You read to me on mornings when I could

not sleep. Your voice was all I needed.

Now I write words you’ll never read.

I still have that book of yours, with a cracked

spine. I lift it and turn its pages in my hands.

I hold your voice. I open myself.

Copyright 2017 Philip F. Clark. From The Carnival of Affection (Sibling Rivalry Press). Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.

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This entry was posted on July 17, 2018 by in Poetry, Social Justice and tagged , , , , .

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