The News of Touch

By: Craig van Rooyen

Featured art: Geese amid Reeds by Ohara Koson

Since his illness, my father feeds
the crook-necked goose every day.
He walks to the pond on diabetic feet,
careful as the path pitches and rolls under him
like a swinging bridge.
He wears suspenders over sloped shoulders,
the shirt tucked over a sagging belly.
Of course he would share with me,
if I didn’t stay away. There’s enough seed
in his bag for both of us. But I’d rather pull weeds
two towns over than see his shaking.
They greet him with a mighty honking,
wings flapping and dripping with light,
then surround him, hoarse with need.

A preacher, he is used to feeling loved
for what he has in his pocket for the flock.
But his pulpit days are long over.
He pulls out his bag of seed
and teeters toward the water’s edge.
A tremor shakes his hand
and the seed spills beneath
writhing necks and thrashing wings.
When the honking stops and the birds leave,
he goes down on one knee, though it costs him.
There is enough seed left to cover a palm.
His good hand steadies the other, and he waits
for the crook-necked gander. Alone also,
the bird finally appears from bulrushes.
This is their agreement:
my father will save a shaking handful
for the crook-necked goose, and in return
the goose will touch him,
pushing its bill across his palm, nuzzling
his fingers long after the grain is gone.

Craig van Rooyen‘s poems has appeared in 32 Poems, Best New Poets, The Cincinnati Review, Poetry Northwest, Ploughshares, Rattle, Willow Springs, and elsewhere. He lives and writes in San Luis Obispo, California and holds an MFA in poetry from Pacific University.

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