“Single Father” by Josh Rathkamp

Josh Rathkamp


I stock sugar in my nightstand and still I fear
sleep. I fear my sugar will drop to a drip
in my brain, barely enough to make it run,
to make sweat bead across my forehead,
to make me incomprehensible, inconsolable,
a pillow amongst pillows, a mass of mess,
because what is a body that no longer wants.
In sleep, my body wants to remain
my body, wants to get up, raise the curtains,
watch the trash truck track a trail of newspapers
around the corner, out of the neighborhood,
and into the mountains people here believe
we came from—the back of one dark well.
Rise, our first bodies said, out of bed,
but sometimes mine will not. Sometimes
it must be my daughter who shakes me enough
to open the lid of my life and eat
the round raspberry or strawberry or grape tabs
that dissolve on my tongue like absolutions.
What is a body that doesn’t rise, what is a daughter
to do but wait by the bed, go downstairs, pour
Cheerios, grab a coloring book and draw
square upon square until it becomes a house
with a tree out front, a long driveway,
a basketball hoop, a light shining from the upstairs
bedroom, which must mean in any world
someone is awake.

from Rattle #37, Summer 2012


Josh Rathkamp: “I never feared much: heights, kumquats, flying, dogs, psychedelic drugs, even my new daughter inspired more awe than fear. That is until I became a single father. A diabetic single father. I’ve been diabetic for over twenty years. But now, at night, my brain spirals. I want to eat whole plates of brownies before bed just to know that my daughter will never walk in my bedroom and find me sweat soaked, to find me not me. I fear now. A lot. That’s this poem.” (web)

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