My Father's House by Devin Kelly


I have no stories to tell. Once, I stared
                                                             at the word love until it became
          & dreamed a night that rose from ground
                                                                               once daylight left.

My father most days came home late, hands
       greasing a bag of food.
                                             We gathered round the television
until the food became the nothing of the air
                                                                    we breathed.
You can play a memory
                                     through the caught lines of your mind
until it becomes a dream
                                     you don’t believe in anymore.
                                                                                     You can do this with your whole life.     Time happens
                        at the same pace no matter what
                                                                               you fill it with.

Some days my father wears gloves to keep the sun
                                                                            from killing him. We joke about death
    He says
               what will you do when I’m gone.
    He says
               oh how you will rejoice
                                                              & I say yes, dad, yes because I know
this gentle lightness eases the pain of life,
                                                               the slow ebb & flow of forever
    my lover worries too much about.

My father was my first lover.
                                             He taught me the kind of touch
that never wakes another, so gentle
                                                           it becomes a kind of breeze
                                                                                                     softening their dreams.
When he breathes
                               at night, violets bloom from his dead mother’s chest.
                                                                                  He does not know this,
how he taught me to believe
                                               in his divinity, how prayer is only
             another word for singing
                                          the gospel
                                                           into your parent’s silent mouth,
how father holds the same meaning as author
                                                                    & we are all living in the novels
others have created.

                               See, how in all this
piecing together
                          of my father’s house,
                                                           this tender mortar of memories & words,
I am only left
                       with fragments.

                               Sometimes, I arrive home
                                                                                a journey softened by warm beer
& the rocking roll of an old train.
                                                When the crowd of strangers
my father arrives, shorter than the rest,
                                                                & stout,
& shoulders my bag.
                                I say no & he reaches a hand paled
            by the violence of sun that comes
                                                              after burning,
                                                                                     lifts the strap from my body
            like a man still so used to holding
a child,
            & carries this part of me
                                                  all the way home.


Devin Kelly earned his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and co-hosts the Dead Rabbits Reading Series in New York City. He is the author of the collaborative chapbook with Melissa Smyth, This Cup of Absence (Anchor & Plume) and the forthcoming collection, In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen (ELJ Publications). He is working now on a collection of poems inspired by Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska. He has been nominated for both the Pushcart and Best of the Net Prizes. He works as a college advisor in Queens, teaches poetry at Bronx Community College, and lives in Harlem. You can find him on twitter @themoneyiowe.

Elijah Tubbs