I never saw my father kiss anyone
not even my mother. Surely I’d remember—
a shadow image in my blood: him kissing
someone somewhere for some reason
even if only for duty.
(In that image he bends his head to a child
or smaller adult, touches a wrist with one finger,
slides his arm around a shoulder.
In the shadow he bobs his head near her cheek:
but do his lips really touch skin?)
What I can’t believe is that I was conceived
without kisses. There must have been kisses—
even if they floated out the window
to be smashed by the bombers rumbling overhead
nine months before my birth.
Here’s what I’d like to believe: before
bombs and blackouts, he was the sweetest
smoocher, the easiest man to laugh with
when someone like me strolled with him
beside the sea, her arm tucked warmly into his.
Charcot Marie Tooth Disease
Often, the muscle loss happens unevenly, which can cause physical deformity.
And here’s another question: which of my parents
can I blame—or thank—for this reminder
of my ancestry? Who passed along the gene that propels me
face-first onto the sidewalk, and forces me to learn
words like myelin and mitochondrial?
My mother’s feet were as ugly as mine
which makes her the chief suspect though
like me she carried on walking dogs
and dreaming of her heyday on the tennis court.
At night I toss the ball, drop my racket behind
my shoulder and swing high over my head.
Asleep, my winners ignore the frayed threads of nerves
and garbled messages caught in their webs
but by day instructions from brain to feet or
feet to brain travel along lines like telephone wires
tangled in trees that have grown too fast—wires
that sag between poles, runways for squirrels,
perches for a supreme court of gloating crows.
Judith Barrington has published three poetry collections and two chapbooks. In 2012, she won the Gregory O’Donoghue Poetry Prize. Her memoir, Lifesaving, won the Lambda Book Award. contact • website