You are reading Fiddleblack #20
Suppose, in an accident of time travel,
the transmitter stuffs me into the body
of a farm kid from 1950, our lives
parallel in like isolation. The son
of another rough father, he sleepwalks
the nowheres of snowdrifts and ditches.
In his brain I no longer need to sleep.
At night, with too much time
to think, I float down his joints,
lift fingers, try out his legs.
The more I move his teenage body,
the more he dreams my memories,
Morse code from a similar self.
Each time he writes down a story, I pull him
like light into the curve of our collision.
The first boy shuts his light
inside a lantern, swallows it,
the brightness of the inner angle
such that only he can see.
Stuffing his innocence like a toad into a boot,
the second sinks it in a slough.
Watching slasher flicks for self-portraits,
the third injects terror like a vaccine
against the fathers. Eventually the man
grows large enough to absorb them,
strong enough to lift the full weight
of the stories into the air where he can see
their seething layers like Saturn’s rings
rotating to show who might’ve been, who can’t be.
Now that I’ve calmed you to harmless wisp,
Father, I want to show you my rows of sleeping cows,
their night bodies wandering the fields
free of blood and fear.
Take your time. I know you
have to come back from your motel
deathbed to be here.
They’re at peace, forgetting
their bones, their tags, their names.
Please don’t ask anything.
If you follow me outside,
into the north wind, I promise
it won’t hurt to walk awhile
saying nothing. Don’t worry,
should you make the mistake
of touching me, I’ll give a shove.
Everyone’s story’s wrong,
I might know nothing
but this craze they released
inside my DNA. My brother says
I’m the son most like you. I’ve tried
two last names, neither yours, none fitting.
I’ve studied Wieners and Roethke for the glare
of your asylum, watched my hands
like two murderers for warning tics,
twitches. Without any
firsthand memory of your skin
or the smell of your smoke, I’m the glue
attracting your ghost. But I don’t
bear you forward. Your opposite,
not an x-ray, I’m shaking you loose.
Michael Walsh is the author of The Dirt Riddles, winner of the Miller Williams Prize in Poetry, as well as the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry. His chapbooks include Adam Walking the Garden and Sleepwalks. His poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Chattahoochee Review, DIAGRAM, New York Quarterly and other journals.