I live in Tucson with my wife Jane, a watercolorist, and with our dog, Irish. Our son Chris, writes for screen in L.A. My more recent work has appeared in The North American Review, The French Literary Review, Verse Daily, and others. FutureCycle will publish my selected poems in 2016. www.michaelgessner.com
My father stands in boxers,
back to the sea. He holds
my hand. I am five. We are a pair
on this Florida beach. We’ve remained
for years this way in black and white.
At forty-seven he looks ‘washed out,’
a phrase I learned from him,
used by a generation without pigment
spray, or tanning booths, to explain
the pallor of the face in age,
its waxiness from lack of circulation,
its corollaries in cotton fabrics hung
too long in the sun,
or what hurricanes do to ports,
and the conch on the beach
bleached of color.
He was no longer ‘in the pink,’
as his childhood chums would say
of each other when flushed
with health and expectation,
but not washed up, either,
not like the bloated things
that bellied-up and were pushed
away by tides, the undesirable
forms on the sand we stepped around.
Still we are here,
squinting against the sun,
still casting shadows.
In a few years I learned another phrase,
‘Life is cheap,’ he’d say,
Odd, for one who held it so near.
-first published in The Yale Journal of Humanities in Medicine
©2016 Michael Gessner