Fathers and Sons

by Gabriel DeCrease

I read in a magazine about health that by the time a person swallows
the last mouthful from a one-liter bottle of water,
what remains is almost entirely backwash,
spit collected gradually as they consumed the bottle.
After that knowledge, applying that discovery to a life,
the last time I saw my father,
at his daughter’s fifth birthday party,
I waited until he finished nearly all of a tall and ribbed bottle
of sparkling water. I asked him to let me finish it.
He might have thought the poverty my mother and I perfected
was possessing me then and speaking through me, wanting the ends.
He might have thought, in that moment, I had perfected
or understood in some complete way who we were, he and I,
in relation to one another. I drank it, felt no difference.
I did not start to occupy another state of mind. I was not purified
as I wanted to be every time I sat down to study
the one photo that exists of my father holding me,
in my youth and in the risk
of seating myself on my father’s shoulders,
before boredom and disappointment propelled him West.
He was young and had plenty of time. I realize, after the fact,
I am coasting slower than the flow of traffic
toward the town where I live upstairs,
above what must be the last typewriter repair store in the Western world
that is not run with any sense of irony or any desire to protest change.
Everyone in my town has been to the one sad topless bar
and most are happy with their welfare fraud.
I steal my health insurance from The State by never filing tax paperwork.
It all reminds me how clean and careful a man my father is,
how loud this world must seem to him.
He does not touch his heavy lips to a bottle he drinks from.
He does not close his mouth around the top, the way I do.
He keeps his thumb and index finger fastened around the neck
of the bottle, keeps the bottle close enough to his open mouth
to consume without touch. He gives nothing
of himself away. For this reason, I will never become pure as he is.

GABRIEL DeCREASE is a graduate of the Creative Writing/Poetry Program at Allegheny College, and earned his MFA at the University of Pittsburgh. He was awarded the Mulfinger Award for Poetry in 2005 and first prize in the 2007 Edwin Ochester/Academy of American Poets Awards. His poems and reviews have appeared in The French Creek Journal, Paradigm-3, Word Riot, Mudlark, Fawlt, Brink, Superficial Flesh and The Cortland Review.