Washing Palms

When the junkies my father sold crack to got
too close to me, he told them to back up
six dicks’ lengths. This is the man who when I was
seven caught me under the bed crying and said:
Save those tears. You’ll need them later.
The man who told me he smoked crack
because he liked it, the man sitting on his couch
now watching the History Channel, scratching
the nub beneath his knee where his leg used to be,
gumming plums, his false teeth
soaking in vinegar on the table. I’m sitting
across the room trying to conjure each version
he’s shown of himself, trying to lie
in water warm enough
to soak away the switch he hit me with.
To help me summon love for the man
who just asked me if he can borrow 200 dollars,
the man who once told me: Wish
in one hand, then shit in the other,
and see which one fills up the quickest.

Douglas Manuel, "Washing Palms" from Testify.  Copyright © 2017 by Douglas Manuel.  Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press.
Source: Testify (Red Hen Press, 2017)
More Poems by Douglas Manuel