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Poem as place to speak to my father 25 years ago by M. Wright

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You came to relieve me
in the middle of the graveyard shift

with a bribe in the shape
of toast and cold Folger’s.

You called it Guthrie’s breakfast
and you were right.

Plain things ought to make ballads.
A chorus as chain link fence

trailing the bluffs of Superior.
Where Tamaracks sip barbed wire

into their bellies without struggle.
Where Tamaracks stand straight

down sloped valleys to gulp the sunlight.
Where sons fight poor posture

despite the pattering slump
of their fathers’ language on their bodies.

You slipped the sonogram from your sock
and I shook your hand blankly.

It was the extra hours you wanted from me.
Some time to consider the dad thing alone.

My mouth broke. It would have taken hundreds
of styrofoam cups of coffee

for me to summon the line I’ve sharpened
over salt and wind and backbone

so I give it to him as thumbtack
and pocket the picture before leaving

so he can work my shift, and sleep
and pin anything against the wall but this.

The rest is mother. The used car salesman
who raised me and my sisters. The first woman

in town to squint her midwestern eyes
into the sun and make you believe

they’re only letting Ford’s
onto the beaches this summer.

M. Wright is an educator and poet living with his wife, Dylan, in Minnesota. He is the 2016 winner of the Atlantis Award in poetry and his poems have recently appeared in The Penn Review, Saint Paul Almanac, Glass Poetry, UCity Review, Wildness, and Jet Fuel Review. More: