Two Fathers

The first father is sick and the other is mean

but they require the same sort of care –

 

mawkish apologies to maître-d’s and bussers;

the sponging up of truly wretched fluids.

 

You’ll shoulder at least one father’s weight

like an anchor against a vulgar chain of protests 

 

and bargain like Mephistopheles any time

he ought to take his medicine or eat.

 

Both fathers must be ferreted away from 

first dates but checked on regularly;

 

either could saw asleep or wrench awake

upon even the mildest provocation.

 

All fathers come out even in the wash –

neither will apologize for what he

 

can’t remember and neither will recognize

himself in the red eyes at his bedside.

 

You will burn away days of unbearable

length checking off boxes on sundry forms

 

then drag out nights playing Whac-a-Mole

with the worst vermin of your imagination. 

 

This won’t be your last dawn spent punching

vending machines with whichever sibling’s left.

 

This won't be the last time I'll have to

remind you that mean is a kind of sick.

 

Mean, I repeat, is a kind of sick.

This poem was originally published in Issue 20 of Tahoma Literary Review.