Wednesday Poem


Everything that has been said for several centuries
is swept away by my hands and hurled through high windows
into a big hole my father calls heaven but I call the sky.
He looked angrily at me because I swore the human soul
was smaller and forlorn as any 8 oz. tin you pay
half-price for at the Railroad Salvage Grocery Store.

That was the night I thought he’d never learn
and I made foolish jokes about the boulevard in Minneapolis
where we both sat in darkness, watching yards where shadows
crawled between the bungalows like creatures from another world
and all the mothers who would never learn hung loads
of white shirts and nighties like ghosts who are waiting

for Christ to return. I was 21 years old.
Already I had said too much: an immigrant from Norway, Michigan,
my father often spoke about another Norway where the sun
rose once but never set. This world couldn’t be your first,
he said, and by calling my ideas “wise” he shut me up. Age
21, my father thought that what his father thought

was ridiculous, and railroaded here
to find another Michigan where he was sure silence had
the last word. Where he and his son could sit in darkness
swapping silences until between us we produced a third and final
silence big enough to house the wild inhabitants and keep alive
the kingdom of a sunken island we could swim to, should it rise.

by John Engman