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by Stuart Friebert

What my dad said I had if I seemed
upset in the slightest. “I’m really not,”
I’d protest. I’d just get the wobbles,

had to lie down when I did. I admit
I didn’t take my jacket or shoes off,
hit the brandy bottle if they persisted,

till words surged to my lips, “Don’t worry,
we’ll get along some day, dad, just wait.”
He’s oiling his twelve-gauge again, which

I’m supposed to inherit, but he’s given up
showing me how to take it apart, put it back
together, so if I’m ever drafted he says I’d

have a leg up. Sometimes it seems life’s
whole meaning can be summed up in his
one remark: PROVE IT, which’d mean

myself to him. When I finally learned to
lead the duck till its half-crazy smile froze
on its face, the shell hit home. Dad led me

by the arm to where it lay. I tried resisting.
Knives and forks, not to mention weapons,
would have had to be invented first. All

this had to happen so many times before I
could breathe without a paper sack and dad
no longer had to tilt my head back, no longer

looked me in the eye, no longer stroked my
feverish temples with his stocky fingers.


Stuart Friebert’s thirteenth book of poems, Speak Mouth to Mouth, has just appeared from David Robert Books. His co-translation with Sylva Fischerova of her selected poems is forthcoming this winter from Bloodaxe Books. (11/2009)

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