Jon Liberzon

Back him into a corner.
Reach behind his ears and palm
the hard hot safety, the hardwood
cage of pride, the place he touches
when he is ready to say anything.

Punch him square in the mouth
and wait, let him hit you back.
This may work better with an open palm.

Think of the men he killed in war,
watch him do it, see he'll only drop
the muzzle when they're down and still
ten counts to be sure.

Go upstairs in the dark spring nights
among the snow of frenzied hatchings
put your ear to his door and hear the sounds
he makes on the woman who is not your mother.

Get him drunk enough, drunker
than you've ever seen, and tell him
about all you've ever failed or quit
because of cowardice.

Throw him a party,
invite all his friends, forbidding them to speak
all night, and see he doesn't notice.

Break all his small expensive things
and leave the pieces in a trail
from the foot of his bed to yours.
Then, for what ensues, and for all the rest

forgive him.
Not for being fallible or hurt,
or for all the sick he's healed,
or for his father who is worse,

forgive him because he is your father,
and that is something which he taught you first.
That is how you must begin
to fall in love with him.


after Ross Gay




I wrote this sitting opposite my younger brother, who was also writing a poem about our father. We were at a workshop filled with young writers from the Volume Youth Poetry Project in Ann Arbor, which is where I started writing. It was my first visit home since moving abroad, where I visit my father's father once a week on Fridays.