Today's poem is by Christopher Ankney
Father Belongs to the River
And not to the gun-slinging shadow sitting
shotgun in a brown banana-boat at the drive-thru
Or the teller whose unsure voice
was the last person known to see him breathing.
Or the rust-mottled fishing tackle also warping
on his back porch. Or the inhaler used to pry
his esophagus open, skillful as a cat
burglar letting in the wind.
Or his mother, whose bob
was always a little suspicious.
Or his father who died when I was weeks
into this world. Or my mother who loved him
too late, and is stuck justifying her lost
love to her adult son.
And every visit there is less and less
mentioning of how he once stole back
everything he'd bought her, his blood
shot with a swig of jealousy at some man
my mom never dated, or fucked.
It occurs to me, the infamous couch
my sister always speaks of, taken as well,
serves as backdrop in the sepia
of a year old me and a fractured him
on all fours in a happy moment.
But he doesn't belong to me, captured
bucking at life; the picture nothing
but a picture of a time I am too young.
I did not know him as my father, only
understood his love through touches
which kept my little body from trouble.
And he is not owned by my aunt
who paid for the lawyer who settled his life
into a number, handed to my mother
in monthly installments.
And he is not owned by the factories
for which he paid his time in hot darkness.
And he is not owned by the story
of his disappearance, or the stories
of his death.
And the father I want remains
a collage, badly constructed, sticky, fluid
as the Maumee, which took him and kept him
until, inside, I knew he was dead.
And his body remains the earth's,
though his bones pour out memories.
And when he is ash
he is ash and he is licked by every tongue
of wind this town has ever seen.
Copyright © 2014 Christopher Ankney All rights reserved
Washington Writers'€™ Publishing House
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission
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