Father in War Time
Father as a self-portrait of his son, as a leaking gas can. Father in the hills overlooking a scream. It’s a father-son time on the corroded playground. Then father on the father time loop scooping water into his hand. You can give the father a carrot and watch him turn it into something beautiful, can witness the shredded ribbons of his t-shirt fall on the yard. Father as a victim, as a tetherball wrapped around a pole. Forgotten streams of fatherhood winding their way to the river. Father with raised voice, with a large glass of bourbon. It’s drink and argue time, father burnout time on the sizzling summer day back when the son might’ve still been amenable to correction.
The Son Holds
The son has an autopilot feature that lets him endure the father. The son is a brilliant tour de force in tolerance, a broken knee in homage to shattered statues. The son blinking through tears. About to leave, he turns at the door and decides not to shout. The son may have a messianic complex he inherited from his father, may decide to jettison it someday with careful reflection and if he meets the right people. An immaculate smile rippling through the yells. The son as fishing line dipping beneath the surface, as a gleaming scale on a picnic table. Lately, it’s a string of cut-your-losses kind of nights, a collection of apologies and defenses littering the floor and spattered with accidental blood relation. To the son, it’s a time to cower and a time to stand up. To the son, it’s all the same.
A dead cell phone. A voluminous skirt draped over a fence. A thousand used teabags lining a gravel drive. Fourteen clean chicken wing bones. A box containing the remains of our orange cat. The lunar curve of my wife’s pregnant stomach. A god trapped behind my steepled fingers waiting for his day of vengeance. My father’s filet knife, sharp and bedraggled with guts. My father’s fingernails and flecks of skin from his hands littering the dashboard. Spit-washed baseballs in a green bucket. The protrusion of a wrist bone under long sleeves. A furtive nod. A pearl necklace lying abandoned in the fescue. A noiseless guitar. My father’s ruined knuckles. A before and after. A sex stain on wrinkled sheets. The bottle of tawny liquid tilting into my throat. A pair of stilettos hanging from meat hooks. A crucifix with filigreed palms tucked behind it. The sting of sweat in the eyes while standing in the middle of a pasture. Clammy palms. A corrupt official screaming at a computer screen, wanting to know where the money is. Slick stones in my pockets. A fortune cookie torn in half and left on the coffee table. All this, and I’m still waiting for my father to call.
Luke holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Butler University, where he served as fiction editor for Booth: A Journal. His fiction and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in Inch, Hobart, Best Microfictions, The Lascaux Review, Unbroken Journal, and elsewhere. You can follow him on Twitter (@LukeWortley) or visit https://www.lukewortley.com.