I Hold My Father's Beer

by Candice Kelsey

 

I

Grainy 4x4 photos

like some prop deck of saloon cards

my mother has filed

in a yellowed Polaroid Flashgun #268 box.

Meant for automatic color-pack cameras,

this box contains the cycle of life:

film to camera, exposure to development.

Now a mini-tomb

it catalogues the slideshow

of childhood. Pinafores and matching

tights meet shiny doll babies and mini kitchens.

Snapshot.

I slide the snug-fitting lid from my cache,

inhale the scent of 1972,

split-level with two car garage,

shellacked orange linoleum,

golden shag carpet.

I meet variations of myself.

I see more clearly

the woman-my-mother who gathered these pictures,

writing in skate-looped letters

my name, the year.

It is a small alphabet to unscramble

like the life I have now.

Dusty, itchy.

II

Most shots are of my legs.

Polly Flinders, patent leathers.

Fractional,

I am out of focus, off center, back to the lens.

In one frame I hold my father's beer;

in another, a pack of Salem Lights.

Most images

are presents: Christmas, birthday, Easter

Her photo omphalos,

You grainy womb,

white-washed tomb! You speak her –

don’t ever forget

most important of all

is not the person,

not even the two-and-a-half-year-old girl,

but the package.

III

The girl is package.

Nothing inside

but the facade swing-door parlor

scripted game of cards.

She’ll be stuffed back into boxes.

I grow more

comfortable in the uncertainty

of being that girl, both container and

contained. In the certainty of

dust

I crave my father’s cool, wet bottle of beer

and imagine the bitter sip

going down

like

a mother’s expectations.

Candice Kelsey's poems have appeared in such journals as Poet Lore, The Cortland Review, Sibling Rivalry Press, North Dakota Quarterly, Burningword, and Wilderness House -- recently her nonfiction was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She's also the author of a successful trade paperback parenting guide. An educator of 20 years' standing with her master's degree in literature from LMU, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.

Tip The Poet.png

Read More...

March 2019

© 2020 by The Esthetic Apostle