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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