“A Tetanus Shot” by William Doreski

William Doreski


My godson’s cut finger glistens.
The nurse on duty resists
my standby parental status
but in the face of necessity
relents and allows me to sign
the proper forms in triplicate.
The tetanus shot hurts, of course,
the muscle shuddering like Jello.
The child doesn’t cry because
his real father isn’t handy,
and I’m a man, not a father,
and have warned him man to man
about how noisome and putrid
and malodorous tetanus can be.
Outside the clinic he confides
that the pain felt cold all the way
to his toes. I understand.
The old brick city regards us
shyly, the storefronts glossy
as if underwater. Sad and worn
Philadelphia, the streets as limp
as ancient rag-paper documents.
No one knows us. My godson looks
every stranger in the face,
secure in the knowledge pain
has given him. I look away
apologetically, well aware
of how much the city imposes,
how dark the antique brick can look
when viewed from an open grave.

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003

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