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Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum: A Good Man

“Don’t. Move. A muscle,” his father says

To his sister, then rises from his place

At the table, strides down the hall to his office, 

And opens and closes the door with a click. 

He, his mother, and sister stare at the dinner table. 

They examine the woodgrain, seek visions 

From the swirling designs. If they’re quiet 

Enough, they pray, he’ll fall back to his work. 

If they don’t make a sound, he will, they hope, forget. 

Then they hear again the click open and shut 

Of the door, his footsteps down the hall, 

And he reappears in the kitchen with a pair 

Of silver shears, the bronze screw of its hinge

The scared eye of an animal as he sits before 

His sister, opens the scissors before her face, 

And removes her bangs in a single snip. 

.

My father is a good man. “Dad,” I’ve said 

To him some nights, “you were a good dad.” 

Yet, when I recall my sister’s bangs falling 

To the table so my father can see the truth or lie 

In her eyes, I return to the scene he painted 

The night I was 10 when he’d caught me stealing 

“Yet again” and “for the last goddamn time”: 

My arrest, the prison they’d put me in, 

The metal table they’d strap me to, the scissors 

They’d use to un-man me “just like these,” 

He said, holding those shears to the light. 

.

To this day, my sister and I wonder if Dad 

Got it right. “Fear,” he explained years later, 

“Is sometimes the only tool.” “And I did, after all,” 

My sister says, “confess. And my bangs? 

They grew back.” “And I did,” I admit, “apologize 

To everyone I stole from…and look how proud 

Dad is of me now.” But then there are 

My sister’s eyes after Dad’s removed her hair, 

Green and still as the eyes of a predator. 

Then there’s Mom, my sister reminds me, 

“our mother,” sitting quietly in her seat, 

Her hands folded silently in her lap.


Copyright 2022 Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum

Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum is an author, editor, & ghostwriter. He is the author of three poetry collections, Fight or Flight, Visiting Hours Ghost Gear.

Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum (photo by Nicole York)

9 comments on “Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum: A Good Man

  1. Mitchell Waldman
    October 16, 2022

    Great work, Andrew.

    Like

  2. Mary B Moore
    October 13, 2022

    Breath-taking, heart-breaking, and so well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. loranneke
    October 13, 2022

    So poignant, seamless, full of tension, and a mix of tenderness and deep loneliness on the telling! Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rosemary Roenfanz
    October 13, 2022

    oh god1 I suspect that’s why we have such fear mongers today in politics–raised by parents who threatened and sometimes followed through. Ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mandy Brauer
    October 13, 2022

    What a beautiful, yet simple, poem. So poignant. Thank you for letting everyone read it.

    Like

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