Back to Issue Forty-Four

Portrait of My Father with the Letter V


Valedictorian. Ivy League. A virgin
when you married, or so you said
when we had “the talk.” To me you were all
Aqua Velva and a vodka martini in the evening,
two olives on a toothpick. You taught me
to replace a divot and how to pronounce
vichyssoise. Avowed Democrat. Achievement
a must. In your prime unbeatable
in Trivial Pursuit and a suave dancer
to boot. Vain enough to own a toupee
but kept it hidden. Private? Veiled?
Reserved, for sure. Did you grieve
for your son and wife? Poetry lover,
you’d have preferred something formal here—
a villanelle perhaps, and you’d have known
what that meant. Dad, I’m sorry
this is simple free verse. Nevertheless,
a valediction. You were all vim
and vigor to the very end. Covid death
number twenty-five thousand, give
or take, now vapor.


Bill Hollands’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as Rattle, DIAGRAM, North American Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, and Boulevard. He was recently named a finalist for New Ohio Review’s NORward Prize and Smartish Pace’s Erskine J. Poetry Prize. He lives in Seattle with his husband and their son.

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