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Jefferson Navicky

Other Fathers

They’re floating out there, my string of stand-ins,

understudies, minor characters and back ups.

One father is a railroad track, the other a watch

that kept train times. One father

a gun never shot. Another the tree

who got good at dodging my car. Another

the car, a ’78 Impalla big as a boat

with two tank doors. My father the bank,

the good soap, the swat and the cloak. My father

the hat. Another, the man with the hand jive.

One father, alone in the bar, asleep,

afield, afoot, alive at least. Another father carved

deep in the wood, one balanced between

two states. One father who told me

what he found, another father who should

have told me more, but like all shoulds

this one emits a dying sound.

One father a fist, snapped and twisted into the face

of the poor sap who looked at him wrong,

another a book splayed on the couch,

a thriller in which somebody fucked

with the wrong guy and lookout,

here comes the revenge hammer.

Another father is the lever, another the pulley,

another the chute, an ornate contraption

with a trap door that shuttles me down

to my real father, mute, alone, silhouetted

sitting in a chair in a dark room

watching a home movie of us flicker

across the screen. He doesn’t invite me

to sit but I’m happy to see him so intent

searching for himself in my face.

King Catfish

Heard rumor a catfish come up

Wills Creek to sit his vastness in the shallows

with hooks hanging off lips and whiskers

like porcupine quills, antennae big enough

to get cable, and a hard-won wiliness to spring

from any man-made trap trying to trophy him.

Didn’t hurt he was an easy hundred pounds,

or so I heard, of solid old-man muscle, the kind

of flab that could snap into action to whip any

whipper snapper, yank loose any hook no matter

the cost to his battered body.

Most of us didn’t want to catch him, just catch

glimpse of his spine’s archipelago, maybe

a whisker poking out of water murky

as mud, a way to fill long, hot afternoons

with legend, longing, and the hope that something

mythical awaited us if we just waited long enough

even though the wait lasted, for most of us, our whole lives.

If he ever existed, he must’ve moved on to

another waterway out of earshot, forgot by our collective

brains, moved on into another dreamscape where

his whiskers sharpened somebody else’s desire

to brush against a divine animal oldness, spot from

a safe distance what toll freedom takes on a body.

House Of Silver

Somewhere there’s a house for us, a house for the us of long hours. You fill it with herbs, deer antlers, and bird nests. Mirrors reflect back only the us of our best guess, where we invest

in a Good Stove. The house sits on a soft hill, the hill from whose height we watch our younger selves climb, struggle, hope, look up to our old-us. If this is all too much American dream

I can take it out later, but there’s something in the feathers and hollow bones that lets me

hold to this air-us. The house is not small, because we do not need to be small. You fill the house

with sewing machines and canning jars, books about the sea, budgets and lists, maps, dried

flowers, beeswax, song, acorns and bourbon. An altar in the corner of the house for

everything we’ve lost, the us our life cost, love’s ash. Painted white with scraps of sky,

the window cracked a bit above so the wind blows through, lets fresh air in.

You’re at our kitchen table, arms full of eggs, twilight’s sienna in your silver hair, you’re

out in the yard hacking a nice edge for your new garden patch, you’re asleep in the bed

and I’m walking up. The stairs creak the us of age. Dream catchers hang loose.

Look – out the window in the upper air, a blue patch just above

the roof line hangs there long enough before coming down in light.


Jefferson Navicky is the author of four books, most recently Head of Island Beautification for the Rural Outlands (2023) as well as Antique Densities: Modern Parables & Other Experiments on Short Prose (2021), which won the 2022 Maine Literary Book Award for Poetry. He works as the archivist for the Maine Women Writers Collection.


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