Another boy thinks his father
dies each time he leaves home.

Comes back a bony apparition
on ESPN, long-eared effigy

crucified in The Sun-Times.
Another boy traces his father’s

road trip, map in hand, before bed,
whispering there he is, there he is.

Down the hall his mother’s door
is a puzzle of bolts and latches.

Down the hall his brother
ices the bones in his right hand.

It’s 1986. All the runaway fathers
are home for Christmas, proof

they can die again. There I am under
the skylight watching the tallest

prophet ever to rise above the pines.
Mom, I say, I’m a prophet too,

and with a bandaged finger
score a comet’s tail through the air

and flap flap my sparrowhawk
flight to bed. One day my father

went upstairs into his own world.
Another boy would have asked

God to hurry his angels. Another
boy would have wound up a man

too soon, no soft atonement
to warm his throat again. I was

not a prophet. I was so many
boys calling from the depths

of fat green shrubs, throat-bones
chiseled by a running silence.

When I cracked the door to my
father’s room—his face vanishing

on TV—I thought, you must be
dying, I have never seen you die.

 

Ben Jackson

Ben Jackson's poems have appeared in New England Review, Hudson Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, The Journal, and elsewhere. His awards include the 2015 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Poetry Prize as well as residencies from Vermont Studio Center, Jentel Artist Residency Program, and Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts. A graduate of Warren Wilson’s MFA Program, he teaches at the University of San Francisco and at The Writing Salon, a San Francisco Bay Area creative writing school for adults.

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