Psalm of the Son

by Jesse Clemens

a maskil

My father,
who rose before seven,
evading be thy game.
Thy relinquished son, thy own life has become
thy yacht-rides, thy brunch at eleven.

the steam from your coffee
forms a question mark,
and the very air around us
implores you to bend,
to scrape your knees on the hardwood edge
as you're beckoned to kiss the stones.
For you, how much
is willingly unknown?
How heavy the thrones
that bent you before them?

Give me this day with a stomach of lead,
give me passage through hospital doors,
empty, everything given.

I come before you golden, oil on my head,
dead-speaking and trailing the tongues
of those nuns who admonished you for drawing that bowl of fruit
untrue to life,
who drew the blood from your charcoaled knuckles,
who broke the bread across your brow.
Take, eat,
then sing to me a new song.

And lead me not into self-tarnation
but re-live this, speak to me, feel

the fact that thy seed
is undone, is sour, is sorry,

we sever and sever,
we men.

For I can no longer withhold my truest self from you,
this weary secret, 
this first amen
into the cloud of unknowing.
Confessed are the wars you and mom fought in my hearing, for she waited until I was seven,
Confessed are the blinds torn down, the weekends when you did not come,
Confessed is my weakness, unable to bear my own worth,
Confessed is the day when I threw a sword through the phone, when I fought for my brother,
Confessed are the arms full of kites, the light we see behind them,
Confessed are the months apart, the odd men out,
Confessed is the faking it, making it through, the children returning to the prodigal father through the fog,
Confessed is this first truth that we shared over sprits, singing clink of glasses, this handshake, this severing mended.
For you cannot, will not, understand
my faith, father, the kind that cannot 
be mortgaged and tapped for equity, 
cannot be traded for industry connections,
cannot be sent in lieu of child support,
cannot be left behind on a Friday night.
For my religion 
is fever, quickening litany,
backyard fires with burned letters 
offered up,
is the transmutation of ignored calls
into sacrificial love,
is the grasping of dead hands, 
one hand praying with the other.
Once, you were my shelter, I wanted for nothing (but wanted everything),
we lied down in the green glider-port grass,
watching sail-planes stirring the air like water.
You made me whole, lead me down the paths 
of a right mess for your fatherhood’s sake.
But though I talk with the malleable shadow of your breath,
I will not hear it as evil,
for you are me,
your Whiskey X-Ray speck in the sky comforts me.
You serve me soup from the comissary in the presence of what is unspoken,
when you landed, I ran over.
And though your good and your mercy
will fade from the days of my life,
I will always come back to your house,
endeavor to understand, a man.

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