By: Owen McLeod
I’m up at 6 a.m. to write, but all I do is stare
at the rain and the trees and watch the wind
strip away what remains of November’s leaves. Somewhere in Virginia, my father is dying.
Not on the sidewalk of a sudden heart attack from shoveling snow, or in a hospital room monitored by nurses and beeping machines,
but at home, alone, and almost imperceptibly from a sluggish, inoperable form of cancer.
That man was never satisfied with anything. When leaves were green he wanted them red, when red then brown, when brown then fallen
and gone. Once, after making me rake them
into a curbside pile, he tossed in a cinderblock meant for the local punk who’d been plowing
his 1982 Camaro through the heaped up leaves
of our neighborhood. Two days later, the kid
blew through our pile without suffering a scratch.
My father didn’t realize that I, fearing for him
as much as for the boy, had fished out the brick and chucked it in the ravine behind our house. As punishment, I had to climb down in there, retrieve the cinderblock, and bury it in the leaves after I’d raked them back into a mound. My dad said that was nothing if I dared to take it out.
I can still see him, stationed at the window, watching and waiting for that boy to return— but he never did, because I tipped him off
the next day after spotting him at 7-Eleven
Decades later and hundreds of miles away,
a malignant brick buried deep inside him,
my father still waits at the living room window, listening for the death rumble of that blue Camaro.
Owen McLeod teaches philosophy at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. His poems can be found 32 Poems, Alaska Quarterly Review, Copper Nickel, New England Review, Ploughshares, Sixth Finch, The Southern Review, Willow Springs, and elsewhere. His debut collection, Dream Kitchen (UNT Press, 2019), won the Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry.