The Day Your Father Dies by Gary Fincke

The Day Your Father Dies

Three time zones east, while you sleep
in your travel-vouchered hotel suite,
the ambulance, pulsing red, but mute,
arrives for your father. Your sister,
discreet, waits for what she believes
is a decent hour, her morning nearly
ended before she places her call.

Because you mark this moment,
you will always know that the first
of six job-candidate interviews,
right then, is eight minutes away.
While you fix on absence, your colleague
carries three morning conversations;
you make phone calls during lunch.

When, during the afternoon, you begin
to season your questions with banter,
the candidates are quick to smile.
Your rooms are swept and scoured while
you overhear strangers toast each other
before dinner in an expensive restaurant
so close you can walk there, then back

to where the hours, their voices hushed,
reuse their condolences throughout
your all-night sleeplessness. A plane
taxis to its gate with no plans but waiting
for you to board just after sunrise, exiting,
then entering two versions of winter, light
about to be altered by accumulated snow.

*

Gary Fincke’s collections have won what is now the Wheeler Prize (Ohio State) and the Wheelbarrow Books Prize (Michigan State). His latest collection, The Mussolini Diaries was published by Serving House in 2020.

Asking Dad for Help by Tom Bauer

Asking Dad for Help

A friend advised I show him a budget plan.
And so I worked it all out–the diapers, food,
everything we needed. Our sole luxuries
a couple movie rentals on the weekend.
I never wanted this. It has me shaking
like I’m Tommy Wilhelm; nervous, filled with shame.
The whole time I’m speaking I slur and tremble.
He interrupts to call me names and shout.
And then I’m outside again, stuck in the why.
Why is he that way? Why is it so hard?
Why is he so cold? Why do I always fail?
Once more the wooden door stands at my back.
It’s snowing, big white flakes on city breezes.
It’s like the rule says, a man needs principles.

*

Tom Bauer is an old coot who did a bunch of university and stuff. He lives in Montreal and plays board games.

Three Poems by Lois Perch Villemaire

Because You’re a Leo
           After Donika Kelly

You’re supposed to be confident,
happy to be the center of attention.
Not that you are that creature
knowing all too well
those waves of uneasiness
starting in your stomach
expanding to your shoulders and arms
worries over the crush of failure
moments of rejection
not being good enough
Are you a fraud?
Pretending to be something?

Don’t be so hard on yourself,
It’s a brand new season
relish those victories
those validations
summon up every shred
of positivity you can,
shape it into a mountain
of atomic strength,
acceptance of yourself
build on those affirmations
embrace the credit you deserve.

*

Dad Collected Penguins

Because he was a collector
of all sorts of things
from art to zebras
at one time he fell in love
with penguins
*
He told us penguins fly
through the water not the sky
diving deep into the world
of dreams— huddled together
—no wonder he held us close
calling us his chicks
*
we searched for penguin gifts
on holidays and his birthday:
mugs
pottery
framed artwork
sculpture
books
sweaters
*
until the day came when
Dad requested we stop
giving him penguins
we wondered why
but he laughed and said
his collection was complete
*
although he asked us
to cease gifting them
I will always associate
flightless seabirds with him
displaying mine like lucky stars
because at one time
he fell in love with penguins.

*

Who Lived on South 5th Street?

I’m done ruining my eyes
trying to read a spreadsheet
originated in 1910
to see who lived on South 5th Street,

After spending years
on family research,
spitting into a tube
sending it off to have
my DNA analyzed,

I’m done responding to
third cousins who may be related
but don’t have a family tree
or any helpful information,

I’m done paying Ancestry
several hundred dollars a year
to allow me to keep my research
in their data base,

I’m done running
into roadblocks each time
I try to figure out if Aunt Minnie
really had a son, James
who no one in the family recalls,

I’m done combing through
death notices on Newspapers dot com,
visiting rundown cemeteries
searching for gravestones
that may provide hints
to identify unknown ancestors,

And I’m really done
trying to figure out how
to pass along this information
because no one in my family
seems the least bit interested.

*

Lois Perch Villemaire resides in Annapolis, MD. Her stories, memoir flash, and poetry have been published in such places as Six Sentences, Ekphrastic Review, The RavensPerch, Trouvaille Review, FewerThan500, The Drabble, Pen In Hand, and Flora Fiction. Her poems have been included in anthologies published by Truth Serum Press, Global Insides – the Vaccine, American Writers Review 2021, and Love & the Pandemic by Moonstone Arts Center. She was a finalist in the 2021 Prime Number Magazine Award for Poetry.

My Father and Pavarotti by Andrea Potos

My Father and Pavarotti

On my stereo this morning,
just as I lean in to write, Pavarotti
came on, his aria filling the whole room.
I’m not schooled enough to know
which aria, only how my father loved him
and how, leaving his crabbiness aside, my father
would sit watching the Lake Michigan surf
from his living room window while the great man sang
over the speakers that filled the house;
and on the patio of his Southern winter home,
he listened, while the lapis surface of the pool sparkled;
then in the last years of the rehab home where he lived
with his rescued brain, a small carved canyon still visible
where the surgeon had rushed in. Once a week I drove
the eighty miles to sit with him there, his silver hair
still blazing, his eyes closed as we absorbed the pure notes
of the rich tenor who sang to my father still.

*

This poem is forthcoming in Andrea’s collection Her Joy Becomes (Fernwood Press, fall, 2022).

*

Andrea Potos is the author of several poetry collections, most recently Marrow of Summer (Kelsay Books) and Mothershell (Kelsay Books). A new collection entitled Her Joy Becomes is due out from Fernwood Press in the fall of 2022. She has poems forthcoming in The Sun Magazine, Poetry East, Spiritus Journal, and The Path to Kindness: Poems of Connection and Joy (Storey Publishing, April 2022).

After My Father Died by Sara Backer

After My Father Died

I longed to spend time with him in a dream
but over two years passed without one. I’m afraid I’ll forget
how he whistled Cole Porter and the way he squeezed
his eyes when he stuttered on Ws. When a dream came at last,
I heard his voice—but couldn’t see him.
I looked around: an outdoor festival, stage tents, musicians.
My sister waited in one of the tents. My father, invisible,
said I could continue to hear him or I could be with my sister.
The choice was presented like chicken or fish—no other options,
I couldn’t have both, and it was up to me.
I looked beyond stages to overlapping hills streaked with mist.
Too far to see, I knew a weighty ocean rolled indifferent through its tides.
Nothing more was voiced. As I walked to the tent,
I saw my sister’s thick blue sweater on the seat beside her,
saved for me.

*
Sara Backer’s first book of poetry, Such Luck (Flowstone Press 2019) follows two poetry chapbooks: Scavenger Hunt (dancing girl press) and Bicycle Lotus which won the 2015 Turtle Island chapbook award. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Art and reads for The Maine Review. Recent publications include The Pedestal Magazine, Tar River Poetry, Slant, CutBank and Kenyon Review.

Poem by Melody Wilson

The Doctrine of the Kite

It floats from my fingertips—
a cathedral of rice paper
and balsa.
“Lighter than air,” Daddy said,
sipped his beer,
tapped ash from his cigar.

He said gold pounded thin enough
would cover the earth; meat should
never be wrapped in foil.
The number three always brings bad luck.

Morning was crowded with kites:
boxes, diamonds, deltas.
Children pelted the playground,
paper whiffling, tails flowing,
they released the keels
trusted in speed and skill.
Lines sang through sweaty hands.

Six toed cats are charmed, he said,
and Joshua trees can move.
Man and God are forever
locked in duel.

I held the kite above my head that day
reciting everything he said.
It quivered once,
twice, then rose
and rose.
The string pulling away
from the spool.

*

Melody Wilson lives and teaches near Portland, Oregon. She has one Academy of American Poets Award, and several smaller awards including a 2020 Kay Snow award. Her work has appeared in The Portland Review, Visions International, and Triggerfish Critical Review.

Unwelcome by Ann E. Michael

Unwelcome

The caller
was
a stranger
soliciting
I don’t
know what
I told her
this
is not
a good time
my father
is dying
and
I hung up.
Now
as night
recedes
I find my
self awake
I think of
him
dying
and how
I was
unkind
to that young
woman
in a call
center
a stranger
I failed
to welcome
into
my heart.

*
Ann E. Michael lives in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, slightly west of where the Lehigh River meets the Delaware. Her most recent collection of poems is Barefoot Girls. Her next book, The Red Queen Hypothesis, will be published sometime in 2021. More info at www.annemichael.wordpress.com

Replacements by Robert Carr

Replacements

I can’t do a dog, so my son’s first pet at my house
is a goldfish he names Zippy. I decorate the glass lung
of our separation. In the kitchen, orange circles –

flamingo pink pea gravel lines the bowl. Fake ferns
and a treasure chest hide a bottom feeder, the dull sucker
keeps it clean. Zippy tends to die on Fridays.

The sucker lives forever, but doesn’t have a name.
Because my son is with me twice a week,
I run out to replace Zippies before his next visit.

Whenever one goes belly up, double fins whitened
at the ends, I do my best to match the latest fish,
pray my boy won’t notice. Before we sit for supper,

Noah always asks to visit his fish friend.
I sit him on the counter, How’s Daddy doing, Zippy?
On Zippy number four, Noah cries out Daddy, look!

Zippy has a black spot on his nose! I gaze through
the far side, over a pink stone carpet. Wow! Some things
can’t be explained, I answer: He must be growing up.

*

Robert Carr is the author of Amaranth, published in 2016 by Indolent Books and The Unbuttoned Eye, a full-length 2019 collection from 3: A Taos Press. Among other publications his poetry appears in the American Journal of Poetry, Massachusetts Review, Rattle, Shenandoah and Tar River Poetry. Robert is a poetry editor with Indolent Books and recently retired from a career as Deputy Director for the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Additional information can be found at robertcarr.org

Two Poems by Matthew J. Andrews

Work Song

City birds seldom call out in song.
They speak in utilitarian chirps,
a squawking vernacular to guide
them on their morning commutes –
wire to branch, branch to dirt,
dirt to highway of cloudy skies –
the way we mumble to each other
about open seats on the bus,
our heads bobbing with the staccato
rhythm of halt and motion, mouths hungry
for crumbs scattered on the street.
Yet even then there are moments,
small moments late in the day
when the drumbeat of sledge
on steel brings to the lips a tune
our mothers used to whistle
in the kitchen as they worked,
their knuckles kneaded and buckled
but their mouths high in the clouds,
soaring on wingspreads of air,
and we softly sing their memories
to the waving branches of the trees
and listen as the birds sing back.

*

My Father and I Make Sausage

Everything must be cold,
he tells me, and it is,
the chill numbing the nerves
on the tips of our fingers.

Cutting the meat away from bone,
his knifework is almost surgical,
his free hand placed carefully
away from the sharper edges.

Out of the grinder, the flesh
is a frayed rope. The machine
whirs like a table saw, singing
the same shrill sounds as silence.

He feeds the casing until we have
links stretched to capacity with fat
and muscle. Don’t prick the skin,
he tells me, or it will all spill out.

*

Matthew J. Andrews is a private investigator and writer who lives in Modesto, California. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Orange Blossom Review, Funicular Magazine, Red Rock Review, Sojourners, Amethyst Review, Kissing Dynamite, and Deep Wild Journal, among others. He can be contacted at matthewjandrews.com.