When you showed me the dissolute
shrinking in the doorway with his shoulders up
I saw all the men I knew already—
the ones whose arms were wound tight then
loosened like wineskins, who had
forgotten what it is to see sweetness
let alone taste it
or have it spread against old scrapes
and spill onto their sleeves
as someone says, “Here you go,
son. Take and eat.”
You reminded me that I have sometimes
shrugged off affection like a scapular I
couldn’t sleep in, that I made it
like something for the cedar chest—hoped for, never handled.
I looked at your creased statuette, your son of
syllables and tallness, and thought:
I have been exhausted before
in my father’s house, discomfited
by kindness and antimacassars
and floorboards made too familiar—the ones
grateful to divulge their unsteadiness
when my step prompts some welcome.
elbow on the table, one eye on the threshold
you told me what it is I’ve felt
with hands that still gasp at the hardness of a hymnal:
to be half a someone, a weathervane,
displaced by what stirs in arms
that are tired even though they are being filled.
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