National Poetry Month: Day 14. “My Father Finally Says Out Loud the Word I’ve Only Heard Him Think” by Stacey Lynn Brown

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My Father Finally Says Out Loud the Word I’ve Only Heard Him Think

Calling it a rehab center doesn’t change
this nursing home, doesn’t daub dry the drool
or bring the unfocused wheelchair bound back
from those sepia grained memories half
a century ago, gentlemen callers in stiff suits
clutching flowers they never brought, doesn’t quiet
the hollerers or still the worrying hands
of the woman in the corner who asks me for a peach
every time I pass her, every day for weeks
until the day her chair is empty, the day
I stand outside my father’s room, listening
as he argues with the Kenyan caregivers, resisting
their pleas for him to cooperate, roll over, please
let them clean the messy sheets that shame him when suddenly
through the garbled spit of catfish that used to be
his language, I hear the word peal clean and sharp, serrating
the spaces between them, hanging in the air
like a curtain to be parted, and I walk through, chirping
cheerfully, smiling apologetically to the two women
who scurry out, exchanging glances between them
as my father looks up at me with rheumy eyes
I might mistake for tears if it had been the aphasia,
if the wrong word had come out at the wrong time,
unsummoned, but no, it wasn’t. Not this time.

Stacey Lynn Brown

Stacey Lynn Brown was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, and received her MFA from the University of Oregon. A poet, playwright, and essayist, her work has appeared in various literary journals and anthologies. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.


Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →