William Fargason: “On Dishes and My Father”


I always save up enough dishes to wash

I always save up enough dishes to wash
before returning my father’s call. I need

to keep my hands busy when the conversation
stalls and I’ve run out of small talk

to fill the air. My hands are full of soap
and sponge, green apple scent in the steam,

my hands turn red under the water.
My father’s voice rumbles in my earbuds,

which means I hear him on both sides
of my head, inside my ears, as close to the skull

as he can get. I don’t bring up my sister,
how disappointed he is in her again.

I don’t bring up how labored these calls
have become, or how I don’t forgive him

for the years of emotional abuse. That can
wait. Another call. Another dish. The pan

I’m scrubbing is full of the crusted smear
of melted cheese from last night. I work

at it until the next pause. The pan I’m scrubbing
exists for me to feel progress with something

when I feel no closer to my father. He calls.
I don’t pick up. I wait for more dishes.

William Fargason is the author of Love Song to the Demon-Possessed Pigs of Gadara (University of Iowa Press, 2020), and the winner of the Iowa Poetry Award. His poetry has appeared in The Threepenny Review, New England Review, Barrow Street, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, Cincinnati Review, Narrative, and elsewhere. He serves as the poetry editor at Split Lip Magazine.

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