Published on Academy of American Poets (

How Will I Address Him When He's Dead

I call my father during halftime when the Irish are on TV. (Family history: my father called his father from a rotary phone screwed to the wall.) It’s good to hear my father’s voice, to have cellular access to familiar sounds: his admonishments, his praise and anger. (Memory of bedtime songs he’d sing on his guitar: I sing them to my daughter now—Phil Ochs’s “When I’m Gone” and Kenny Loggins’s “Danny’s Song.”) My grandfather, who lived in Indiana, named my father James. I rarely think about it, his having a name—my father, James.


Copyright © 2017 Brian Phillip Whalen. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Spring 2017. 


Brian Phillip Whalen

Brian Phillip Whalen received a PhD from SUNY–Albany in 2015. He lives in upstate New York.

Date Published: 2017-08-01

Source URL: