My Epitaph

by Guy Kettelhack
Wild Poetry Forum
Second Place, August 2018
Judged by

I’ll never have a son or daughter.
I slaughtered any likelihood of that.
It’s not just that I’m gay. There are other
ways to foster progeny than through
the customary man and woman family plan.
But I’m content to be the witting beneficiary
of unwitting chance: the coupling of a father
and a mother in the sanctioned pleasures
of the ancient dance, which however by some
measures failed by not producing others through
new fathers and new mothers to the line.
My brother’s sexual proclivities reflected mine.
Venus never met our penises: Mars perhaps
too often has. And yet I’ve known a kind of jazz
epiphany through procreative sexual abandon:
libidinizing life – as if that were the apparatus
of a wife with whom I’ve peopled my New York.
(Blake sat naked in his London garden, singing
to his progeny of poesy, heralded by angels
in his trees.) I am among this city’s legacies.
New York is my spouse and child; I am its.
If I have a generative purpose, here it sits.
But am I only apparatus? Do I have blood?
I dream I’m standing with my father and my
brother in a downpour of precipitating mud.
Solipsism drops in dollops of itself, discarded like
denatured coffee grounds, forgotten by the pot.
My epitaph’s a rueful laugh: “I’m all I’ve got.”

Both full and sometimes slanting (“line”/”mine”/“jazz”/“apparatus”) these interlocking rhymes drive the ironies in this meditation on the deficit of sons and daughters. The narrator’s voice (“It’s not that I’m gay”) delivers a wry self-analysis of “sexual proclivities” against personal choice, like Blake’s, the poem insists, “singing/to his progeny of poesy.” The rhymed couplet that closes the poem seals this “rueful” epitaph for a self “denatured.” --Kathleen Hellen