“As Fire, My Father” by Michael P. McManus

Michael P. McManus


My father as fire melts December snow
with each step he takes through a Pennsylvania field.

But there is no field there is no snow,
only a mud-rutted road where my father walks

as fire under a sky filled with molten geese,
which now know the horror of too much heat.

My father as fire sits in a flat-bottomed boat.
He poles across the water, looking down into it,

where he sees a glowing town a city & pillows,
on which ashes shape themselves into children’s faces,

& friends & former lovers & joyful leaps from remembered pets.
My father as fire believes in string theory & chaos,

convenience stores & muscle cars & the fly rod
abandoned to the cellar because fire & water no longer mix.

Some days the old rivers run through his eyes.
Some days his old eyes run through the rivers

like facets on a diamond like fangs on a snake,
like seven white horses drinking from a flaming trough.

My father as fire at seventy believes in the laying of hands,
an act which brings him both pleasure and pain,

the moment the father sees the son
close his eyes & begin to burn.

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005


Michael P. McManus: “Twenty years ago when I was in Yorkoska, Japan, I met a Zen Master while I was dabbling in Aikido. He sensed I was very cocky and he was right. One day he asked me, ‘show me your ego and place it in your hand.’ Now each time a poem comes to mind, I try to write it by that lessen learned.” (website)

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