Back to Issue Twenty-Seven.

My Father Amid the Shades



He stands at the doorway, tired
Of the labyrinth’s granite passages,
Lights another cigarette, coughs;

Younger now than I am, but worse
For wear. Twice split by stroke,
He has yet to relearn right-handedness

Or to speak with confidence without a slur.
His face is not his own and yet
I recognize him beneath his mask

That peels like the paper of a wasps’ nest.
Like him, I neither fear nor serve
The gods, but by their favor I am allowed

This audience. My grief, once rage,
Is now more like the finest of splinters
That goes unnoticed as it works

Its way to the surface of the skin.
He does not recognize me—an old man
Among the shades—and why would he?

I am an interloper hoping to curry favor,
To have the past explained at last.
It would be easier to foretell the future.

Eric Pankey is the author of many collections of poetry, most recently Augury (Milkweed Editions 2017). A new book, The Owl of Minerva, is due out from Milkweed later this year.


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