To My College Buddy Who Wished Zombies Were Real & Laughed
OK, then let's say your dad leaves rehab for good this time, or
even better makes a break for it in the middle of his
last session &, like the lone soldier he's always been kicks your
door down or drives the knob in drywall like a fist, grabs your scruff
& growls son. Or maybe it's just a knock, a creaky hinge,
that wistful smirk at his sudden return, your love the reason—
the only cure he needs—soaring synth, fade to black, anything
but the mad hesitations that grip you like a hickory
bat. In a fantasy, forgiveness should be easy. Even
then, this man who beat iron bands to the chest he constructed
to hide your most painful plastic toys as he recited “Love
Me Tender,” swaying with a mallet over his heart beneath
a green maple, this star-dappled man wouldn't be able to
save you from what you must not know you've asked for: The reluctant
need to crack your mother’s skull seventeen times with her own black
skillet. Your sister’s tongue shucked like an oyster from her jaw. His
rotten dick pinballed out the knee hole of a pant leg as his
body lumbers home. & I get it, dude. Shame is a mother
-fucker & little’s more intoxicating than bravado
inherited by the last man on earth, but you will hurt them.
& what then, when your dad’s slouched silhouette teeters the doorway,
when you quaff curdled air & understand? What but embrace dead
weight, let it hold you down while baring the pure white bones of his
fingers it tugs chordae tendineae & rips your heart out
again—only tonight, it's your beating heart. His real hands.
A Primitive Condition of Pain & Longing
The sky in New England is so close.
I drove up to see friends in November
two months after I drank the deep end
& disappeared from a life
& love I couldn't love myself enough to want.
College sweethearts, my friends
rehashed resentments & walked a new dog
out to piss. I wore dark denim & indigo flannel
& fancied myself the bluest man in Providence.
At the river, I pondered a trout’s white eye,
dusty as the moon, reaching for the sky
as no one really does with loss.
Mostly you just stand in supermarkets
figuring out which frozen pizza
is least likely to make you weep. & I stood
on Lovecraft’s grave. He was a xenophobe
& a good son & maybe it’s good that he’s dead. I mean
I screen my dad’s calls because he asks about money.
I mean it’s good when a man who caricatures
the people he should care for
as fish-faced omens of apocalypse
finally dies. One day, god willing, I will
be good & know it. Or maybe some angelic baseball
will rock my skull & ooze me free.
I'm not OK. See, in Warren,
in that squash blossom light above the bay,
spent-coal clouds dropped anchor when the puppy
juked hard, rolled rag-doll into leaves, a wild mop of paws,
rocked himself & trotted off that mulch.
I mean my friends were in love
& it was hard to watch them laugh,
but harder in December to stand
above my grandpop's body alone.
Slack-jawed as everyone says & metal
in his deepest teeth, I pet his forehead,
raised his eyebrows half an inch
toward the sky. I wanted to thumb open
each eyelid, didn't & I regret it. I'm saying
I'd be just as not-OK if I did. I'm saying it matters
because “here” is ephemeral & fucked.
I said thank you & thank you & thank you, you did
the best you could with what you had left, runaway
drunk flung home sober like my father & me,
convert to sugars he couldn't take, moaning
as dad prayed & wept on the porch. He was there,
my father, his own his first watched death.
He held the dreamless fingers, told him to let go,
sat & cried again. We shared potato chips & Pepsi by the body.
He took a breath he said & then there was no more.
He stood & shook his father’s shoulder, rocked
the shut eyes side to side & said
what you say. Somewhere else is better than this.
Tim Lynch has poems forthcoming or published with Yes, Poetry, tenderness, yea, Occulum, Connotation Press, and more. He has directed various workshops for young writers through Rutgers University in Camden, NJ & conducts interviews for Tell Tell Poetry. He would be delighted to meet you on Twitter & Instagram @timlynchthatsit.