The One I Think of Now

By Wesley McNair b. 1941 Wesley McNair
At the end of my stepfather’s life
when his anger was gone,
and the saplings of his failed
nursery had grown into trees,
my newly feminist mother had him
in the kitchen to pay for all
those years he only did the carving.
“You know where that is,”
she would say as he looked
for a knife to cut the cheese
and a tray to serve it with,
his apron wide as a dress
above his workboots, confused
as a girl. He is the one I think of now,
lifting the tray for my family,
the guests, until at last he comes
to me. And I, no less confused,
look down from his hurt eyes as if
there were nothing between us
except an arrangement of cheese,
and not this bafflement, these
almost tender hands that once
swung hammers and drove machines
and insisted that I learn to be a man.

Poem copyright © 2002 by Wesley McNair, whose most recent book is The Ghosts of You and Me, David R. Godine, 2006. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Wesley McNair b. 1941

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Gender & Sexuality, Relationships, Living, Social Commentaries, Parenthood

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Wesley  McNair

Biography

Often referred to as “a poet of place,” Wesley McNair captures the ordinary lives of northern New Englanders while writing about family conflict and other autobiographical subjects. His poems often explore American dreams interwoven with family drama and public culture. A New Hampshire native who has lived for many years in Mercer, Maine, McNair has authored nineteen books, nine of which are collections of poetry, including The . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Gender & Sexuality, Relationships, Living, Social Commentaries, Parenthood

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.