Brently Johnson

The Artist’s Father  

In the moments between watching my son
       draw a picture of a turtle without a shell

and thinking what a fine poem it would make
       to write about my son drawing a picture of a turtle without a shell

he’s added a purple squirm of a tail as well as a fifth leg,
       which gets me to thinking:

Is the poem’s value that preserves a moment in time
       deeper than the moment itself?

And before I can answer, he says this is for grandad—
       my father, on his first round of chemo—

the particulars a four-year-old can’t possibly understand,
       which, no doubt, increases the poem’s profit,

the prized metaphor I don’t even have to work for:
       how beneath the armor waits the naked reptilian self.

And I want to get it down before my memory slips from the room,
       before I find myself stripped and bare to old age

with nothing to document that I was a good father, an above-average writer
       who believed words would outlive him.

Now, at a table spilled with markers, he wants help with the mouth,
       the eyes, the jaunty letters of his name.

I jump at the chance just so we can finish the damn thing
       and get back to remembering this moment once and for all.


Return to Volume 5.2






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