Father Poems – Stephanie Yue Duhem

Forgive Him


Smudging the newsprint

like the half-print of a hoof in the snow 

with my forefinger, I am asking him

to trace the ideograms as far back as they go.

But he is a poor hunter—I know that now.

He is poor at many things. 

Once, he called my bruises to their names. 

As if he could name the world to its knees. 

With a daub of bister or a pat of wax, he 

used to show some dexterity. Some pull to form. 

If his hand angled like a palette knife 

beneath our roof—that was just the slant 

of truth. The arc of justice.

I too pulled to form, some ultimate geometry 

whose law was to bend 

as far back as the line allowed. Then

curving like a shaving of cedar, 

shivering in my own warm breath like a fern,

I proved his sternness a practice, an espalier.

How could I not forgive him? I do. I must.

Given the powder blue branching in his wrist.

His heavied brow,

his diminished gift.

Understand—he is a dovecote in disrepair, 

housing the ghosts of minor masteries. 

I no longer plea for minor mercies 

but advance them, slowly,

like feathery pages in an heirloom dictionary.


praise song

        after Lucille Clifton 


praise baba

architect of syncretic utopias

where the hagia sophia 

and a space needle 

sister straw 

into a cola-dark sky. 


sisterly too

are the princesses who rule there.

praise their racelessness.

praise their seriatim smiles.

praise their espalier ballgowns 

stitched with a number two.


praise how they flick 

fubsy fingers and edict. 

praise how they say baba

draw me a new heaven or baba

draw me anew again.

then praise praise       how he does it.