The train station is a cemetery.
Drunk with spirits, a man enters. I fan gnats
from my eyes to see into his face. “Father!”
I shout and stumble. He does not budge.
After thirteen years, neither snow nor train,
only a few letters, and twice, from a cell,
his hoarfrost accent crossed the Atlantic.
His mask slips a moment as in childhood,
pure departure, a gesture of smoke.
Along freighted crowds the city punished,
picking faces in the thick nest of morning’s
hard light that struck raw and stupid,
searching, and in the dribble of night commuters,
I have never found him, wandering the almond
trees’ shadows, since a virus disheartened
the palms’ blossoms and mother gave me the sheaves
in her purse so he would remember her
and then shaved her head to a nut.
I talk fast of her in one of my Cerberus
voices, but he laughs, shaking the scales
of froth on his coat. The station’s cold
cracks back a hysterical congregation;
his eyes flash little obelisks that chase the spirits
out, and, without them, wavering, I see
nothing like me. Stranger, father, cackling
rat, who am I transfixed at the bottom
of the station? Pure echo in the train’s
beam arriving on its cold nerve of iron.
Ishion Hutchinson is a current Guggenheim Fellow in poetry. He is the author of two poetry collections, House of Lords and Commons and Far District. Born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, he moved to the U.S. in 2006 for graduate studies. He’s the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award, the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, a Lannan Writing Residency, and the Larry Levis Prize from the Academy of American Poets. Ilya Kaminsky describes him as “without a doubt one of the most gifted poets of my generation.” He lives in Ithaca, New York, where he teaches in the graduate writing program at Cornell University.