His relatives promised not to tell me
when he died, yet they handed me the news
as if it were a lunch I didn’t want to eat.
They poured the announcement into the phone
like water scolding my ear. Days afterward,
I dreamed death images of a man I disowned
decades earlier. Following my parents’ divorce,
he moved to Berea, a suburb of Cleveland,
where he married his housekeeper. I visited him
only once, never saw him again while he was alive.
As a kid, I wanted him pummeled from the earth
to escape abuse.

I didn’t attend the viewing or the funeral, but
I imagined myself hesitating to the coffin,
saw him nestled atop blue silk, cheeks padded,
lips stitched shut, eye sockets deep as lies,
hands immobile that had mauled my childhood.
As a boy, I wanted to mean more to him
than his belt would allow. From this day on,
his dead mouth will say nothing,
his words of love having gone elsewhere.

R. Nikolas Macioci earned a PhD from The Ohio State University, taught for Columbus City Schools for thirty years. OCTELA, the Ohio Council of Teachers of English, named Nik Macioci the best secondary English teacher in the state of Ohio. Nik is the author of eighteen books. He was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.