Cathexis Northwest Press

© 2018 

Abandon; Catechism

I see you, Father, 

when the snakes came

green under the covers, 

they came damp 


palms over 

my twelve-year-old thighs 

with open mouths,


while just across the sheetrock

that barn in France

burned to the ground again

on your watch.


There’s the slippered scuff 

of your tartan flannels,

dowdy and warm

with the smell of the bed;


your soldier’s eyes,

methadoned and mild.

A simple thing, 

the comfort of a child.


How does the world come to be 

out of nothing?  

You hold out your hand, 

and light strafes the mystery;


chin-stubble wattles 

in uplight - this face 

has known the enemy.


“Come out, you bloody sack rat!”

(you said things only I could hear)

Windows rattle in their frames,

but the cocked fist 


costs your legs; you struggle 

up the footboard, clutching 

at your chest.  It is for me 

you heave to stand.  Now the gnarls 


of your broken hands

take the corners of my sheet

and the night air snaps 

like laundry on a line



as white wings rise. 

I feel the flap of a bird 

trapped in my bed.  For you, 

I bellow strength


to climb the air, 

and when I let go, 

the pale shroud falls like sleep.

I still see 


how it slews and banks

across the brightening,

to land at last, my father, 

at your feet. 



You say you’ve never seen his face?

After the steam and babble of Lucky Dragon,

the words ring out across the empty lot

as clear as a call from a desert minaret.

The asphalt sparkles in the dark like broken glass

as we move along in sepia,

forgiven, for now, the detail of the day.


I persevere.

Then tell me what you see.

The hood of your sweatshirt tips to the sky;

every upturned face is innocent.

Well there’s a ring of craters at two o’clock;

 the light parts are mountains, and the seas are dark.

You shrug.  It’s just the way the rock cooled 

when it left the earth five billion years ago.


There is no such thing as time.

We are still standing there 

looking out on that winter night.

You brush the hair out of your eyes,

silver beneath the man in the moon, 

and close. 

I can almost see your face.

Janet Ford has lived in the Brushy Mountains of western North Carolina for over forty years, where she has made a home, raised two sons, and taught English in public schools. She has published in Great Smokies Review, Poetry South and The New Southerner, and she received the 2017 Guy Owen Prize from Southern Poetry Review.