Boy, Winter 2008

by Mike LaForge
criticalpoet.com
Third Place, April 2008
Judged by Patricia Smith


You can’t hear my voice, thousands of hands away,
smoke-shred and husky, broken as knuckles.

Boy, I’ve punched through pine and ribs, shouted
down the black mountain, bled on concrete, stone

and shoals of snowy paper. Today, there’s a screw-
topped winter in my backpack, made of glass.

I sip from it when your telephoned voice cuts me
backward to your first clear word, your first

poor Christmas. I don’t forget how your new fingers
gripped my wrinkled shirt, your birth-scars, your fear

of water and the loud sound. My hands wring circles
around this cold green bottle while your hands shape

crooked snowmen, frozen daddies. Warm,
they reach and touch your mother’s face.

Soon, and I’ll be there, you’ll hoist your own pack,
my boy, strike hard into a greening world.


I was pulled headfirst into this tale of a repentant but hopeful father and his longed-for son--I wanted more, craved more, but I don't believe that was a shortcoming of the poem. I enter every poem hungering for a tale, and when that tale is as terse and straightforward as this one, I feel slighted. But I also feel that somewhere, in that rollicking parallel universe where the wishes of wordsmiths are paramount, the lives of these two people--especially the father, whose trek homeward is already scripting in my head-go on well beyond the poem. --Patricia Smith

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