Literary Orphans

Three Poems by Nathaniel Sverlow

 

blister

 

my father was once young

and strong and full

of promise

 

he lifted weights

ran

cycled

almost everyday

 

and at the end

of each workout

he’d often take

his shoes off

(no socks)

and show us his

blisters

 

. . . . . . . . . . the ones that had formed

. . . . . . . . . . and the one that had broken

 

big balloons

of clear and red

water and blood

life and living

 

and he’d smile

at our reaction,

smile

as he toweled his feet off

and left

down the hall

 

this went on

until he turned 40,

when, on his birthday,

he locked himself

in the study

 

later that day

he let me in

he told me

he was too old,

that it was all over,

that nothing mattered

anyway

so why give

a shit

 

mother said he was

having a bad day,

but he never

lifted weights

ran

or cycled again

 

he never took off his shoes

and showed us his blisters

 

instead

he resigned himself

to the couch

sinking in

with a bottle of wine

or tequila

or soju

or whatever else

he felt like

that day

 

years later,

approaching 40 myself,

mother and I go out

for lunch

she tells me

his body is gone

his mind is going,

can’t tell if it’s CTE

(after three major falls)

or if he’s just an asshole

 

. . . . . . . . . . I think he might die

. . . . . . . . . . this year, she says finally

 

and I am picking at

my right index finger

with my right thumbnail

 

not knowing

the blister

that would form

and eventually

break

 

 

 

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the bus stop

 

I drove him out

to the bus stop

He was pale, thin,

and very tired

 

I helped him

get his things

out of the trunk

 

“You ready?”

I said

 

He smirked

“I don’t know.

I’m going to sleep

on the train though.”

 

“Good luck.”

 

“Let’s hope.”

 

we hugged

and then I watched him

join the mass of people

moving inside the bus

 

when it was his turn

at the door

I thought he might give

a second glance

but I was wrong

 

he was just too tired

 

as the bus pulled away

I could see

the blue sky

the clouds

the greenness

of everything

in its place

 

with

people

coming

and going

brushing shoulders

on such a beautiful day

 

O Typekey Divider

the hairdresser

 

yesterday

I went and got a haircut

 

the hairdresser was young,

nineteen or twenty at most,

and thin, very thin,

with a rainbow Mohawk

and tattooed feathers

running down

the side of her neck

 

“Let’s get that head

all the way down!”

she said

to start things off

 

I lowered my head

and she worked the clippers

along the back and sides

 

she held up a lock of hair

to the mirror

 

“That’s at least an inch long!

You haven’t been here

in a while, have you?”

 

“Three months.” I said

 

“Head down!” she said.

 

we were there for a while

at least a half an hour

and there was small talk,

of course,

about balding and X-chromosomes

about Paul’s perm

about parents and divorce

 

“One of my first memories,”

she said,

“I was two years old

sitting on the staircase

watching my mother pack

her things into boxes

before she left.”

 

“When I was nine,”

I replied,

“my parents were fighting,

screaming at each other.

And when it was quiet,

I went into the living room

and saw broken chairs

broken stools

broken glass

paper towels

unraveled

on the floor

and swinging

from the ceiling fan.”

 

she ran her fingers

through my hair

 

“They should have

just gotten divorced.”

I said.

“They would’ve been

a lot happier.”

 

“Yeah.” she said,

closing her fingers

over an uneven portion

and cutting.

“I wish I didn’t waste

so much time

worrying about it.”

 

“Head up!” she said,

handing me a mirror,

“How’s the length?”

 

I moved the mirror around

to find my reflection

 

I took too long

and the hairdresser laughed

 

O Typekey Divider

Nathaniel Sverlow is a freelance writer of poetry and prose. He currently resides in the Sacramento area with three cats, one incredibly supportive wife, and his young son. His previous publishing credits include Typehouse Literary Magazine, Black Fox Literary Magazine, The Fiction Pool, Squawk Back, and Bone Parade. And, he is currently finishing his first poetry compilation, The Blue Flame of My Beating Heart, set to release later this year.

O Typekey Divider

–Art by Giuseppe Milo