7.06 / June 2012

Between Them

listen to this poem

There is an old black and white photograph of
my grandfather and his brothers on the farm.
They are all strong men with thick forearms,
forceful, tall with rounded bellies,
bursting beneath dirt-crusted overalls.

I am not like my rough and muddy ancestors,
who churned boots through cracked fields
and pulled barbs from dry skin,
who called out to their wives,
“This little one here is bleeding.”

My father is just like them.
No smiles. Just this bleeding.
In photographs.
In real life.

Only, I see him in color.

His hands are rough on the back, white at the knuckle.
He will not tell me about his past, only his present,
and even then, there is a lot he doesn’t say.
It’s something about this shadow that spills from
him, falls over small-me, rests there like a cloak.

I am stringy and short beside these men,
my blood. Take me and try and place my frame
somewhere amongst them and snap a photo.
There is not enough space between them.

Jonathan Starke is a former bodybuilder and boxer. He’s the founding editor of Palooka. His stories, essays, and plays have appeared in 100 Word Story, Blood Orange Review, Brevity, Fourth Genre, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Missouri Review, Monkeybicycle, The Normal School, North Chicago Review, The Pinch, Post Road, and Third Coast. You might find him watching old boxing matches on a Sunday evening. You might not.
7.06 / June 2012