father as ball and chain 

by Clayton Walker

i park outside pearland 

                                 state prison, wait 

for my father. for eight years 

                                  a crate of corn liquor

has rattled beneath the backseat. 

                                  i’m scared 

if i pour it out, i’ll smell 

                                 my father: flammable,

fumed. winter 06', he left                                   

                                 his truck running

on the side of collins mill road 

                                 while he sat in the woods 

with a loaded shotgun

                                 just to see 

if that brown boy who fished 

                                “his” side of the river 

would steal it. i park outside pearland 

                                 state prison, scared 

to step out of the truck. 

                                 on the top of his right forearm 

is a prison style portrait

                                 of my mother. on his left,

adolf hitler. i’ve learned 

                                 that love will leave

two hundred dollars 

                                  on a commissary account, 

respond to a letter, 

                                  but it will never 

shake my father’s hand.

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