By Kevin Stein
Featured art: Europeans Embracing by an unidentified artist
Cursing the stubbed-toe 2 a.m. call—my father?—
I picked up a woman’s feather-brushed gush, “Wilbur,
it’s a grandson! Jamaal José O’Bryant.”
And I, unhappily not Wilbur, croaked Wrong number as one does
when plucked frog-eyed off sleep’s lily pad.
She was old. Who else misdials the pay phone’s tiny numbers?
Who else marries a Wilbur, their grandchild an American blend?
Outside rain misted not cats and dogs but litters of kittens.
Her lavender sachet apology, my bed-headed threnody, my
No problem, and click. Lightning cracked night’s black egg
in halves I couldn’t tap back in place:
My father’s dead. I’m next.
Revelation arrives like that, thunder trailing the flash.
I rode the open window’s wet carpet awakening,
storm flipping its toggle above the wind-blown yarrow,
electric as any newborn. Shaggy, late autumn, nearly gone-to-seed-
bloom, naked ecstatic.
I floated my trial run out a window the rain had come
in. When the dark made light of me I was.
Kevin Stein has published 11 books of poetry, scholarship, and anthology, including the collections American Ghost Roses and Wrestling Li Po for the Remote. His Poetry’s Afterlife: Verse in the Digital Age traces the roots of our current American poetic moment and outlines its future evolution. Stein served as Illinois Poet Laureate from 2003-2017.
Originally published in NOR 9 Spring 2011