The Advance of the Father

From raindrenched Homeland into a well: the upturned animal   
was mine by law and outside the tunnel, him again!   
Everywhere I turned the children ran between. “Loose dogs!”   
he roared. I remember one sequence: a gulf in his thinking   
meant swim as fast as you can. But it was winter and the water   
was closed. The mouths of the children were sealed with ice.   
After all, we were swimming in emotion, not water.

“Shut up! you Father!” I shouted over my shoulder. Racing,
but not spent, my mind went, “It isn’t good that the human being   
is all I have to go by .... It isn’t good that I know who I love   
but not who I trust .... It isn’t good that I can run to a priest   
but not to a plane .... I lost my way exactly like this.”

Inverted tunnel of the self.
Throat or genital search for the self.
Light that goes on in the self when the eyes are shut.   
Uniformity impossible in the psyche’s pre-self
like a day never spent, or how the unseen can make itself felt.

It was as if a boy was calling from the end of a long island.   
Docks were vertical and warlike.
I would be on one side of my bed like a mother who can tell   
she’s a comfort because she’s called Mother.
Still, we both would be able to see the edge of the problem.

It’s true that the person is also a thing.
When you are running you know the texture. I was clawing
at the palm of one hand and brushing up my blues with the other.   
A man who wore his boxers at night remarked that my daughter   
was tired. He had nothing to do with anything.

Ahead was the one with magnified eyes and historical data to last.   
Know-how and the hysteria to accomplish his whole life.   
It was horrible what we would do for peace.
We told him the story of the suffering he made us feel
with the ingratiating stoop of those who came second in the world.

Fanny Howe, “The Advance of the Father” from One Crossed Out. Copyright © 1997 by Fanny Howe. Reprinted with the permission of Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota,
Source: One Crossed Out (Graywolf Press, 1997)
More Poems by Fanny Howe