Everyone Has Better Parents
I drive with you beside me after you’ve bombed a math test.
You’re still and cold, like city statues after dark under street lamps,
the way public art at night shapes itself into familiar monsters.
You still want to go to college but maybe not engineering, you say,
feeling carefully for safe ground between us.
At the stoplight on Black Rock, birds pass over our car
and are gone forever.
The car engine hums, listening.
I’m taking you to a therapist. You asked Mom for someone new,
someone who is not a family friend so you can tell the truth
about us: the current of my fury that crackles
through our walls,
your mother’s shackling invasion of privacy,
her way of transmuting all experiences into life lessons
like the perpetual ringing of a hammer.
At two years old your eyes were blue as berries, your hair
platinum and fine at the temples, like a halo.
What if that was the time to impart wisdom,
Before you darkened into this baffling stranger?
What if it’s now–this moment
before the traffic light blinks green?
As we drive past the bank, sunset blazes in its windows–
your face lit like red gold–and it’s like a door opening
to welcome us: some other father, some other son.
Originally from the Midwest, Robert Darken now resides in Connecticut, where he teaches high-school English. His poems have appeared in The Orchards, Red Eft Review, and New Verse News.