Seeking The Hook
with its barbed point digging
into the soft palate behind my lower teeth
I am dragged along the mud and rock-strewn
bottom for forty feet, then pulled up
drawn toward the light as I twist and
yank my head side to side and the hook
lodges deeper in my mouth I taste
the blood a silent cry goes up through
my skull and it is all so quick I see
the surface a hand the light overwhelms
me, and I lunge a last time with the hook
ripping across my lips and I'm free
suddenly falling back gasping through
air then slipping beneath the surface
into the dim, green sweetness and
the flesh of my mouth throbbing water
flowing through me and yet slowly,
beyond thought or even the will
to survive, I feel myself turn and
go back, seeking the hook and it
is there again, waiting for me,
rigid and tiny, the hidden barb
like a beautiful lie, too powerful
for me to resist, so that later when
they lift me, strip me, tear my guts
out and present me cooked and
spread open, I will believe I am being
honored like a new king.
Song of the Divorced Father
"...I realized that it's inevitable; wounds are part
of what parents give their children."
There was a woman poet from Chile who
wrote "sleep close to me" to her small son.
Reading that, I think of you, children, now
so long and substantial, now beyond
my picking up and carrying to bed, now
beyond the reach almost of my arms and my soul.
I remember the night silence and my father-ear
listening for your breathing; the cries and
choking sounds that pulled me from sleep.
I remember the early mornings of sentimental
thoughts as I watched your faces utterly
asleep, and then strange dreams you told
of wolves and weddings and curious caves
full of treasure.
Now I want you to sleep near me, to be
in the house with me, so we can sing together
sometimes, so I can relearn your new voices.
So we can carry the wounds together,
pulling them from the sea, an old boat
we used to fish in -
turn it upside down and let the flaking
paint dry in the sun - then when night comes
we can howl and weep - you can hammer me
with your small fists of long ago and we can
hack the boat apart and burn it;
it will burn all night, the stars wheeling above us
as we lie there, separate, exhausted.Then in the morning, the boat will be intact,
awaiting us, the blue paint fresh. I will say:
"Let's get some fish in the marshes." And you
will steer, knowing the way all over again.
Meeting My Son at the Airport
I’m there before and I wait.
When he comes through the passageway
I remember his being born,
dark-haired infant pushed out
with his mother’s blood.
Now he carries the colorful
valise on his shoulder and
doesn’t see me. I’m standing
right in front of him and he
doesn’t see me. He doesn’t
let on that he sees me.
This is the moment it is all
said. You walked out on me, dad.
I won’t ever get angry. I won’t
even feel the betrayal. You
walked out on us and I was
six years old. Now you come
to the airport and I don’t
For a moment I imagine him
flying at me and knocking me down;
or the two of us, out of breath,
bewildered, on our knees, weeping.
But he walks on, a prince
in gorgeous athletic robes who
stops for no one. And then, as I
reach out for him, he seems
like a blind boy too proud
to ask for help.
I take one of his bags
and hug him. It’s done.
Damage of twenty years ago.
If I live long enough and
he returns one day to
the small, locked, forgotten
door and I am allowed to
return from this unacknowledged
exile, maybe we will meet again.