November 29, 2021

Dante Di Stefano

THE DAY

If you could take the day by the hand
even now and say Come Father
—W.S. Merwin

The day rises like a rock
in the hand of my father
coming down hard

on my mother’s windshield
as she puts the car
in reverse and speeds

out the driveway
leaving him to wander
raving down the cul-de-sac

the day I learned the language
of spider web cracks
on glass and how to remain

mute in front of social workers
how not to relate 
the interior fluencies

of rage and other undertows
I prayed myself into
each night under the covers

sleeping on the floor
so I wouldn’t be dragged
out of bed before the day

could come and choke me
into the silence mantling me
in school bus and classroom 

there were so many days 
like that one 
days flowering kicks cut knuckles

and elbows fists and curses
knees and teeth and fuck you
bitch and slut and fat cunt

the day grew spikes on its back
and gilled itself with despair
the fog pawing my light

and still I prayed and wondered
why my mother 
wouldn’t leave him why love

punched holes in drywall 
broke dinner plates 
took a baseball bat to bedposts

and tv screens but it was more
complicated than all that
the day they took my father in

drugged him and put him
in the psychiatric wing
where we saw him for an instant

my brother and I
he was shrunken and so frail
we barely knew him

decades later the days
I spent with him have accrued
a murky sheen of sorrow

and disgust I try not to dwell on
for the sake of my daughter
and my wife I say let’s make

the day a brocade a rocking horse
a bird on the highest power line
the good milk of being born anew

from Rattle #73, Fall 2021

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Dante Di Stefano: “Rereading this poem is painful for me; the subject matter is hard for me to talk about, but, like all poems, I hope this poem is something more than its subject matter, a necessary, albeit broken, music, a journeywork of enduring and shattering stillness I might dwell in with you.”

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