Sitting in my therapist’s waiting room,
I recite the number 42. He always asks
how old I am, testing my cognition,
at the most inopportune moment,
right when I’m on the verge of
a breakthrough, derailing my train
of thought and startling me enough
that I fumble for the answer.
I’m lying; I’ve never been close to
such an epiphany, don’t know what one
would feel like. Would confetti flutter
from the ceiling, one of those floppy
men my daughter likes inflate outside
the window? Would Miss North Carolina,
in regal evening dress, wheel in a cake
with a picture of me, smiling, on it,
or of my parents, looking bemused at how
many sessions it’s taken me to realize
it isn’t all about them? Each week,
I think I’m ready for the question
but am caught in my tracks—a lot
of train references in a poem that claims
not to be about my father, the Lionel Man.
I once knocked a locomotive from a display
shelf, showing off at ping-pong. My father
charged in, surveyed the pieces, and said,
Do you know what that cost?
In retrospect, I do know the answer: 42.
Matthew Duffus has received graduate degrees in English and creative writing from the University of Mississippi and the University of Minnesota, and his poetry has appeared in a variety of journals, including Slant, Main Street Rag, and Common Ground Review. He is an instructor of English and writing center director at Gardner-Webb University, in Boiling Springs, NC.