Catch

By JED MYERS

JAMES BAKER HALL MEMORIAL PRIZE IN POETRY WINNER

Judge: Mary Ann Taylor-Hall,
author of Dividing Ridge and At the Breakers
“This poem keeps gathering to encompass, through encyclopedic scope and grim, loving energy, the various ways our fathers are lost to us, the ways they disappear from this sturdy but totally mysterious world. The jewel at the center is the image of the father in the parking lot crouching to teach his small son how to throw a ball—and to teach the voice and soul of this poem how to ‘plot the curve of the world.’ That curve is mortality. And memory. And love.”

 

All the fathers are gone, under
the grass, above us in the earth’s
greenhouse haze, in stream silts
where the burial hills are awash
in the unprecedented monsoons,

some never found, swamped shot
in the rice marshes and ultimately
part of the crop, some taken in bits
as they sank into the mouths of fish
and bottom scavengers, some chopped

into manageable chunks and wrapped
to be kept from the air and stashed
behind Sheetrock while the cops passed
for unbroadcast reasons—all
the fathers, it sometimes seems, are gone,

while it’s only mine and maybe a billion
or two others, while in the park
by the lot for the market one squats
to get eye-level with his wide-eyed son
to steady the small heart’s tremble. Not all

the fathers are gone. All I remember
from when I was little, the laughers
and smokers and golfers and TV repairmen,
who might, any one of them, once
in a summer, before supper, come out

on the street to toss us the ball for a bit
to get us to discover that supple
give in the hand that can take
more of the world in its grasp—all
those old men are lost. So it’s hard

to believe what I see—a man
in a white shirt, sleeves to the elbows, holding
a pink rubber ball in one hand to give it
that easy up-and-down hefting as if
to assess its weight which is so slight,

inches from his enthralled son’s face,
before handing it over to see
if the boy who must only be three can cock
his arm back next to his head and hurl
that microcosmic planet aloft

on its next heavenly arc. It is all
my fathers dissolved in the past.
Here’s a dad, yet to be sloughed
or sequestered, to leave this eye-to-eye
moment to be remembered. This

crouching pop and his pal, could be
on the grass outside my earliest house—
oh the phones and cars were different,
we had other names for the wars
we watched on our monitors, but it was

a facile animal of the same lot,
bent low to show me, out
in the solar glare, how to plot
the curve of the world, before
he rose, and was no longer there.

 

Jed Myers lives in Seattle, where he works as a psychiatrist with a therapy practice and teaches at the University of Washington. His poetry collections include Watching the Perseids (Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award), the chapbook The Nameless (Finishing Line Press), and a chapbook forthcoming from Egress Studio Press. His work has received Southern Indiana Review’s Editors’ Award, the Literal Latte Poetry Award, Blue Lyra Review’s Longish Poem Award, and, in the UK, the McLellan Poetry Prize. Myers’ poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Nimrod, Summerset Review, Harpur Palate, Crab Creek Review, Cider Press Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Crab Orchard Review, Common Ground Review, and elsewhere. He has recently been guest poetry editor for the journal Bracken.


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