Face to Face

By James Lineberger

Featured Art: Bowl of Flowers by Morton L. Schamberg

Back when our son died
I already suspected
that you and I would be having these
conversations sooner or later
but what I had not anticipated was your laughter,
the role-playing and costumes
and all the faces-on-parade,
as if you can’t decide which one to wear,
for there’s hardly a moment
when the one I’m talking to
is not some other you
like last night before I even had my apnea headgear
fastened securely
there you were peering at me up close
through the plastic mask,
only suddenly you weren’t you at all
but the image of my father
struggling to maintain his balance as he pisses
on the kitchen floor,

which forgive me I have a hard time accepting because
just ask yourself,
how are we supposed to have a serious conversation here,
where I come begging your forgiveness
for all the years of pain and deception you were married to,
when geez louise I just be damned if I owe that falling down alkie bastard
a single goddamn thing hear me
and answer me this:

if you’re so content being wife and daddy and everybody else,
what is it in there that sends out
your bird calls,
wears the hoodie, conveys itself behind the arras
and summons forth every one of you

James Lineberger wrote the book and lyrics for the rock opera, The Survival of Saint Joan. His screen adaptation for the Devery Freeman novel Father Sky was filmed by Twentieth Century Fox as “Taps.” His poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Berkeley Poetry Review, Verdad, Exquisite Corpse, Boulevard, Hanging Loose, New York Quarterly, Ontario Review, Oxford Magazine, Pembroke Magazine, Sonora Review, Seneca Review, The Cortland Re- view, Texas Review, and Verse.

Originally published in Issue 19.

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