Ode to My Father’s Body

By Jeri Theriault

Featured Art: Lost Moment by Mallory Stowe

I lose my way in the low-note harmonica
of my father’s absence & unfold the map
of his body in the big window of his barbershop

at the corner of Summer
& Gold    where he    slow    stood all-day
poised to conduct    the chorale    clip-clip

of his trade    shears    razor    hot-towel
talc    brush & tonic    Red Sox radio
my father vaguely tidy & distant    not

dissonant. My everyone-knew-him father.
My year-round-bicycle father. My father’s
body at school nights

or Sunday mass    silent    always
silent but singing in the cellar attic
garage & whistling    as he built back-yard

swing-set    lean-to    edged
garden rows    or hosed night after sub-zero
night    the ice rink where I soothed

afternoons    cold & would-be
wild.    His body hunched in the chair
of my mother’s hospital room that time

we thought she would die    thirty years after
they divorced. My father’s corpuscles
& liver    shins & scapula

his semper fi     tough-guy body    his ear
his good eye my self-taught father in the city
of his body my beige & pastel checked-shirt

father in serviceable shoes & trench coat    who left
his copy of Camus’ The Stranger face-down
on the bed in English though his tongue

his lips    his throat    were French.    He left    too
his body    that night    left
what was left of his body    left

his Iwo Jima    his broken birth family
left his untold    his mystery    left me
his daughter    the wilderness

of my own body    that is to say    left me
half-him left the quiet why or who he was
might have been    what he most

loved    so that sometimes    I still walk
the hallways of my father’s body
half the doors gone    half of them still here.

Jeri Theriault’s poetry collections include Radost, my red (2016) and the award-winning In the Museum of Surrender (2013). In 2021 she edited WAIT: Poems from the Pandemic. Her poems and reviews have appeared in journals such as The Rumpus, The Texas Review, and Plume. She won a 2019 Maine Literary Award, the 3rd place prize in the 2020 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Competition and was twice a finalist for the William Matthews Poetry Prize. Theriault lives in South Portland, Maine.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s