A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
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.