I've been carrying around questions for the treatment facility in my pocket all week: How long is the typical stay? What is the visitor policy? Do you accept Aetna insurance? There's something about keeping them close to my heart that makes me want to believe you'll soon start eating again and won't be needing them anymore. But the luck rabbit's foot clasped to my backpack in elementary school didn't prevent Marc Morsey from beating the crap out of me. Just look how it turned out for the rabbit. My middle school pleas to heaven to make Robyn LeStam fall in love with me only succeeded in teaching what humiliation feels like. The daily affirmations I read each morning won't prevent others from trying to exploit the optimism I strive to project. I'm going to have to hear my own voice inform the person who answers the phone my daughter has been diagnosed with anorexia.
Despite the beard, the congressman-elect has a baby face. He's tall, trim, a West Point graduate, a veteran. His family comes complete with two cherubic young boys and a waifish pixie of a wife. It's as if he were molded in a central casting laboratory and rolled out at the moment the country faces a generational existential crisis. For the next week, every Democrat-friendly major news program on which he's booked is going to ask him to repeat his message, mid-term election prediction, and vision for America in the same number of characters he used to tweet it the minute networks declared him the winner. He's the same man who asked me six months ago for insight into raising two kids after his son was born. He's the one who praised my letters to the daily newspaper, and was the run-away favorite among the county executive candidates four years ago. He looks so natural up there at the dais. So...presidential. He keeps insisting he “can't believe it.”
There's a reason we revere Socrates today, but holding court in the streets like a Mardi Gras entertainer, encouraging Athenians to examine their lives while his wife Xanthippe ran around cuckolding him, didn't exactly paint him in the most favorable light. Many were relieved when the hemlock the state forced him to drink brought the end he insisted we shouldn't fear. Jesus said, “No prophet is acceptable in his hometown,” and he would know. Since people refused to listen to him with their own ears, Vincent Van Gogh gave them one of his. Unfortunately, most don't understand metaphor, so the sad, misunderstood painter became just another ignominious artist whose work is now worth millions. Herman Melville spent a year and a half writing Moby Dick, only to see it fall out of print after selling 3,000 copies. It wasn't until he had died an obscure New York customs inspector critics began extolling Melville's brillance. Once he's dead, it's pretty safe to assume being labeled a genius isn't going to go to anyone's head, but maybe we ought to try to be a little more supportive from now on to that blind blues guitarist in Penn Station and the woman at the kiosk in the mall who draws ten-dollar portraits in under five minutes. Those sci-fi stories the weird kid in class creates could be about more than just robots and spiders from Rigel-7. That bard you dismissed because you hated poetry in high school sees life a little more clearly than we've been able to after all this time.
To a Son Lost
I don't think that way anymore. Perhaps I never actually did. There were things I said I abhorred, but I don't think that way anymore. Occasionally I still wonder where you're headed and how you're going to live. I don't think that way anymore. Perhaps I never actually did.
This is About You
For dumping him, Ernest Hemingway got even with Agnes Von Kurowsky, the nurse he fell in love with while her patient during the first world war, by concluding A Farewell to Arms with Catherine Barkley, the character on whom she's based, hemmorhaging to death after childbirth. I share that so you undestand the potential I have for revenge now that you're in this poem. I could really do a number on you if I were so inclined, especially since there's no chance in hell you'll even be caught dead wasting your feeble gray matter on poetry. Not even you will know it's you, and your reputation will be subjected to undergraduates' tortured interpretations long after we both have shuffled off our mortal coils. But maybe I ought to save the invectives for another day, another poem. The weather is just too beautiful at the moment and I spent years furnishing an acceptable place for you in my subconscious so I'd never have to feel this way again. Ted Millar teaches English at Mahopac High School. His work has appeared in "50-Word Stories", "Warp 10", "Fictional Cafe," "Little Somethings Press," "Grand Little Things," "Words and Whispers," "Fleas on the Dog," "Better Than Starbucks," "Straight Forward Poetry," Reflecting Pool: Poets and the Creative Process (Codhill Press, 2018), "Crossways," "Caesura," "Circle Show," "The Broke Bohemian," "The Voices Project," "Third Wednesday," "Tiny Poetry: Macropoetics," "Scintilla," "Inklette," "The Grief Diaries," "Cactus Heart," "Aji," "Wordpool Press," "The Artistic Muse," "Chronogram," "Brickpligh"t and "Inkwell."