Photo of My Father at Twelve

by Lindsey Royce

Sitting on the running board of a neighbor’s old Ford,
you have a guarded look in your eyes.
At once, you appear relaxed and tense, bare chest taut,
nipples like buds, milky skin, ribs sticking out.
You want to be a boy with boy’s dreams,
though you try on men’s rules for size,
and if you could remember a hug or kiss,
a time when nurture wasn’t mollycoddling,
you’d go back there by magic carpet and rest.
Having learned to be lonely, you hate your need,
your secret longing to be held like your sisters,
and bitter as an orange peel,
you’ve discarded sweetness as you soldier on.
Not yet brutal toward wife and children,
it’s here I would step in the frame,
lift you, dear child, into my arms,
smooth the furrow from your forehead,
and hug away the grief, fucked up, wrong.
I’d say, Boy, your sensitivity isn’t weak.
Sit with me ‘til the trouble leaves, ‘til you trust
again, ‘til your small self grows peaceful,
and even, if we’re lucky, radiant with love.

Copyright 2016, Lindsey Royce

Lindsey Royce earned her Ph.D. from the University of Houston’s poetry program and M.A. from New York University’s poetry program. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including New York Quarterly, Chelsea, Poet Lore, Poetry East, and Cutthroat. Her first collection of poems, Leaving Empty Handed, is forthcoming from WordTech Communications in September, 2016. She lives in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and is a professor of English at Colorado Mountain College

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