V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics





My Dad in a controlled skid, wet road
slick with fallen leaves, perfectly

executes the slide-stop, hops out and plants
a Hollywood kiss on Mom for the camera.

I see his old pal Herb in the back seat
laughing his unbald head off, Herb

young as my father somehow, Herb who long
preceded him down the road of self-erasure. . . .

But it's not truly my father, just a home movie
ancient and grainy, sun-blasted, shaky,

and in fact not my father at all but me,
for Dad is as always behind the camera

recording my tricks with what must be
love, almost ruining it again with overexposure,

but solid as a bucket, this fatherly regard
I will never know except as it bathes

my face like the unstoppable wind.
But it isn't even that, because the scene

I watch and watch again so garish and true
isn't any home movie he ever shot

but a dream I'm spinning out, and even
in its heavy trance I know this is no real film

but my own heart-yearning, like this next scene
that was never shot—me beaming at my first bike,

teetering down the sidewalk and back,
two spaniels trotting alongside in delight.

And finally, of course, it isn't even any dream
of a movie, nothing so real as that—

it's these paltry words I am lashing down
on the page as if to patch Dad's leaky mind,

trying once more to give body and purpose
to a life lost before it is quite over,

a manhood I can only view as mirrored in mine,
as if I were his main purpose and best voice

in a life I've loved without understanding,
like the peace of my father as he waits

for he knows not what, as I do not know,
though I wake with blasted heart, that's for sure,

and my dog arrives at my bedside as usual
to nuzzle my groggy face, a dog who as a pup

I lay carefully on my Dad's lap, crooning
comfort and delight to them both,

and Dad didn't budge or open his eyes, just sat rigid
in his wheelchair with that lap full of life.


© by David Graham


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