Table of Contents - Vol. VI, No. 1
S. Thomas Summers
Dad ushered me through his errands.
The hardware store smelt like turpentine.
A bald man with coarse whiskers
let me hold silver wrenches that lay
like bones in a glass cabinet. He promised
each one possessed more magic than the next.
Dad protected me from car wash tentacles,
red blue brushes thrashing from the walls
like the livid heads of sea monsters. He hoisted me
into the barber’s chair promising lollipops
if I sat still. Fussing is foolish, son --
like pulling caramel through a keyhole.
Now, I wipe his chin after he sips his soup,
zip his coat when it’s cold. We talk.
He warns me not to overinflate my bicycle tires
and that a handshake is as important as kindness --
Make it firm, boy. Make it firm.
I’d begin with a man wading in the shallows
of a tired river. The water’s cold.
Silver coins glitter in the silt around his feet,
juggling the sun and the wishes of children:
hard candy and crayons.
His pockets are empty.
On the bank behind him,
a makeshift gravestone
rises from earth like a new tooth,
a loose rock he pulled
off the house’s foundation.
His hands – still black from the coal
he used to scratch two words
on the stone’s bitter skin: My Son.
He stepped into the river
to make himself clean,
release the dirt and soot from his palms;
but he needs this grime.
There’s nothing else to feel.
Yes, that’s where I’d begin.
Of course, there’s the woman
who snagged an eye on her reflection
in a sidewalk window as she paced
across the fractured ground where
three dandelions bloomed, casting small
florins of shade on the grit and crumble.
She smoothed her dress against her hips,
fluffed her hair, and pursed her lips
against a ribbon of wind.
Never did she step to appreciate
the moth resting on a gutter’s downspout,
its wings cupping late morning like a pair
of small sails. And I thought, the world is doomed.
© S. Thomas Summers