To What We Lost – Keith David Parsons
A sharing of heart, Keith David Parsons eloquently writes about the concept of loss as well as the loss of his stepdad. Take a moment to read his beautiful expression.
They hug telephone poles
best picture available
enlarged to show texture
like cereal, pixels cracking
answers to Wesley or Lady or Patch.
Do not chase!
All dead of course
there are no signs for found dogs.
I have never owned a dog
but other losses post my mind:
that big firm internship
building a cabin in the woods
being a pastor or an astronaut
having a cigar
with my stepdad
apologizing to that friend
hit by a train last year.
These, like Patch, molder in a dump
as water seeps into the lamination on
his poster, the ink runs;
like Wesley, silently consumed by fungi
in a ravine somewhere
his flyer fades in the humid July wind;
as Lady’s cheeks desiccate
drawing her skin taught
into an eyeless snarl,
her rain-warped paper dries and crackles
I never even put up a sign.
I had a dream that my cat became unstuck in time,
and as I petted her, I remembered my stepfather’s cooking classes
that he took to meet women before he met my mother, and
stood confused, as she walked by twice without seeing him
on their first blind date.
Later, he filled their house with “As seen on T.V.!” merchandise.
He cooked in the “You can set it and forget it!” rotisserie.
They bought a golden puppy—Seamus, after his grandfather,
who pooped all over his jeep when they drove me back to
my first year of college.
Their favorite Virginia wine was a Riesling with a dog on the bottle.
“The most important thing to know is you like the taste” he said.
He liked Audubon drawings of ducks. Once he was starting
his charcoal grill with lawn mower gasoline, and almost
burned down the house.
He was so grateful when all three brothers came down after the
first heart attack. The doctors went in for a triple bypass
and did a quintuple instead. He knew we would be there for her.
And after that, the cigars he loved became less frequent,
and more fragrant.
Much later, I was writing this poem, third revision. At a bar
on the waterfront, a man with a glass of wine asked if I had a
cigar cutter. I did, by unusual chance—I’m not a regular smoker.
But when he lit the cigar, I cried. I have never revised this poem
Seamus passed, Tom convinced my mom to get two more goldens.
He always wanted to have two dogs. Every Christmas after that
the best gifts to my mom were from “the dogs” while “Santa Pig”—a
light-up lawn ornament pig with a winter hat—gave gag gifts to the
rest of the family.
Later, my mother told me that he always tried to make Christmas special,
because she lost her father around that time of year when she was young,
and my father left then too. Tom constructed an elaborate family myth,
with 24 hours of A Christmas Story, and “I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”
to make her season bright.
Until the year that the gifts were already bought, but my mother said
“Oh sweetie, I hope you’re warmer than you feel” as we said goodbye.
We had Christmas as normal for the nieces, too young to understand why
“Bumpy” was missing. And we opened the gifts he had already bought,
now unstuck in time, like the recording I made
of my cat’s last purr.
Keith David Parsons (he/his) is a citizen-poet on the run from the law, yoga aficionado, and a stan without a country. Born in West Virginia, between a crick and a hollar, he now lives in Washington, Douglass Commonwealth. @Kristophanes on Twitter/Facebook, keithdavidparsons on Instagram.