Volume 69, Number 1 · Fall 2019

For the Man Who Caught My Father

when he lilted—lost in fainting—and careened off the bar stool.

                      Dear Catcher, Dear Hands, I pray you
           know this is no samestory about a dad

and liquor. You know something about my father even I do not:

                      his weight in plummet, and the force
           necessary to keep his shoulders from plowing

into the floor or his temple from tasting the chrome

                      legs of the stool beside him. As it stands,
           this is a narrative of a man with bones

well-trod by tobacco and hard spirits. I have been

                      a character in this tale you have
           now saved. Yes, I am the one

who crawled free from ash swells, who was

                      not whiskey-drowned, who would leave home
           to alight from trains in towns where none knew

his damp, cigarette-singed skin. Kissing the phone

                      screen against my cheek, I try to deduce the cause
           of father’s fall. A doctor, one month prior,

(what I know which you do not) snaked a balloon through

                      my father’s arteries so hard they collapsed—
           a stent left as scaffolding in the unstable

blood shaft. I fathom he maybe lowered himself

                      awkwardly upon the seat, with his thigh
           spilling over the edge, the mesh holding

his peripheral artery open to blood instead

                      pinched narrow—what the doctor feared when
           he ordered my father no more racquetball.

Couldn’t that drive a man to seek a pity drink, to grab

                      a seat at the bar—ergonomics
           be damned and his blood pressure sinking?

You held my father until the ambulance carried him

                      to the hospital that let him go,
           tests cleared. And I can only ponder

any of that. I can only write this now at a distance,

                      at ease, because you, Dear Arms, snapped
           open—that human preservation reflex—

and embraced his payload which, had it crashed,

                                            would have made
                                            a crypt of me.

Kyle Dargan is an associate professor and assistant director of creative writing at American University in Washington, DC. His latest poetry collection, Anagnorisis, which was published by Northwestern University Press in 2018, was awarded the 2019 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets and was longlisted for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.