for MARK UNWOUND
In an ecru cable knit Mark boils water.
His back in its sweater beads into sweat
but he likes the sweater — it reminds him
of his grandmother, who splashed lukewarm tap
water into her scotch. Manhattan nights,
she shook n’ flicked two Sweet n’ Lows into
her coupe. We come back to booze.
Mark boils water so he doesn’t pour
wine. It could happen many ways, any
night of the week. A faucet taut to leak.
He sweats, he is hot, he is hardly not
drinking. He needs a cup to hold bacon
grease. Did I say he is frying bacon?
The Bud pops
and pours out. Sweetwater tossed to the drain
as if spoilt. If only it could, all
the liquor alive, rancify and sour.
Mark barely tips the cast-iron fryer
to transfer its meat fat to the can.
A thick glug of gold. I have no fine phrase
for the shaking of his hand.
My poor, frightened father.
Where is faith when he stirs honey into
tea? When he quietly removes his shoes
and sits to face tv, back taut in grim
refusal — where is praisesong for
his insular no’s, for his muscular
memory of a four-to-six second
pour, ignored? He lifts the BLT —
he eats. That sweet meat. That sweating man. Look
at him do the thing he does not want to
fail at. Praise him for it.
Marney Rathbun’s work can be seen in Reservoir Literary Journal, Fourth River Review, the Smith Alumnae Anthology, (b)OINK, and in her chapbook “I call my father by his name”, winner of the 2016 Jubilat Makes A Chapbook competition. She holds in a BA in Africana Studies from Smith College, and an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University. She is currently a teacher and waitress living in Brooklyn.