You need to dosomething for yourselfis what she used tosay to mewhile I stood washingthe dishes or foldingthe children's pileof warm clothes.Now I believe thatshe was talkingto herself like a knightstaring off overthe hay roofs ofsome unimportant villageinto the doors of adark and unknowncastle, saying I'm meantfor more than this.I don't understandwhy braveryso often comes withcruelty. I would be happystaring at my kidsall day. I would be happywatching snow fallonto the green glassof a greenhouseuntil the glass brokeand the tomatoes insidefroze hard as baseballs.My mother tells a storyabout bringing hersons to the mall whenwe were eightand says I saw howpeople looked at youand your brother, youwere such prettychildren I was worriedsomething wouldhappen to you. I onlyremember her lookingat us, saying I could havelooked at you all day.The last time I talkedto my fatherwas the night ofmy older brother'scremation. He was sittingon a couch staringinto an empty fireplace.I hadn't seen himfor years but justthen I wanted to sit nextto him like you woulda child you foundlost in the mall,and say it's ok, let'sfind your parents, theymust be here somewhere.I think I said, Allen,I'm sorry Darin is gone.And he made a soundlike a child might makewhen reaching up fora mother's handonly to realize that it's not theirmother. He sighedand said it's so strangenot having a son anymore.And my father was right,his son was deadand gone and thatwas the beginning andthe end of any storyI might ever tellabout love. Yesterday,going to the storeto buy nighttime diapersfor Owen, I found myselfso happy that everyonehad to wear masks.That I didn't have tolook at anyone's face.That I didn't have tolook at mine. I watchedas boxes of differentkinds of cereal glidedby, watched cansof vegetables becomecans of fruit. The musicplaying in my headwas so beautifulit was like the soundmy children's mothermade when she used towalk through our housein her socks.
“About Love” from HUSBANDRY: by Matthew Dickman.
Published by New York Review Books on June 07, 2022.
Copyright © 2022 by Matthew Dickman.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Matthew Dickman is the author of Husbandry, Wonderland, Mayakovsky’s Revolver, and All-American Poem, winner of the APR/Honickman First Book Prize. His other honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Sarton Award for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He lives in Portland, Oregon. https://www.matthewdickmanpoetry.com
"Matthew Dickman’s tenderly forensic, accomplished, and confronting book moves through bitterness to the domestic realities of the work of responsibility and love for our children. In the anxiety of being, nightmares have to be negotiated, and the role we play in showing a way through has to be scrutinized as we go. It’s not easy, it never was, for any of us. And that’s the gift of this book—though so specific, so personal, it can be for any of us."
—John Kinsella, author of Insomnia
"In a clear, spare voice, Husbandry contemplates the joys and struggles of domestic life, detailing many luminous moments of fatherhood."
—Marilyn Chin, author of A Portrait of the Self as Nation
"Joseph relegated to holy backdrop. Vader's chilling confession to a wounded Luke. Fathers undervalued, hastily drawn, overly romanticized, dismissed, dramatized, overlooked. Fathers called upon to be substitute everythings, then commanded to be less than shadows. Matthew Dickman's signature lyricism electrifies this new fractured phase of his life story, as a suddenly solo father who witnesses the visceral but tender unreeling of family, who must daily redefine his root as both father and son, and whose utterly stubborn love for his children reveals the chaotic, ungolden work of parenthood."
—Patricia Smith, author of Incendiary Art