No, Nothing

By Daryl Jones

Featured art by Jozef Israëls

He’s in one of his funks again,
my stepmother’s warned me,
hair shaggy and mussed, baggy clothes afloat
on his skinny frame.

My father makes hardly a dent
in the overstuffed sofa he’s sitting on.

No, he’s not hungry.
No, nothing in the paper interests him.
No, there’s nothing I can do

but stare blankly into the distance where he’s staring

as I did sixty years ago when we hunched
shivering and silent on five-gallon buckets
flipped upside down on the ice of Cedar Lake,
waiting for a tiny red plastic flag
to snap to attention.

Now and then, we would stand up stiffly,
huffing and hugging ourselves, stamping our feet,
then skim the slurry from the augured holes
and sit down again, nothing to do but wait,
testing our wills against the deadening cold

and the wily old lunker pike we pictured

in the black, still depths below, impervious
to the booted thunder rumbling overhead,
hunkered down, hovering in its singular darkness,
grim, stubborn, defiant.

Rodney Jones is the author of ten poetry books; he has received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Harper Lee Award, the Jean Stein Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Kingsley Tufts Award. His most recent book isVillage Prodigies (Mariner Books, 2017). He lives in New Orleans and teaches in the low-residency MFA Program at Warren Wilson College.

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