KATE BERNADETTE BENEDICT's poems have been appearing in journals and anthologies since 1980. Her many online credits include The Cortland Review, Branches Quarterly, Perihelion and (forthcoming) Disquieting Muses. She lives on New York City's upper west side and serves as free verse moderator for Eratosphere, the online poetry forum.
The Adirondack Review
A FINE FORM OF A MAN

. . . was what my father called himself. Fine form: the bald, soft pectorals. Fine form: the flabby, rolling girth.

Mention one of his blatant abnormalities — the crooked nose wart, the swollen ankles, booze-hound raw, the growth that wouldn't loosen from the nail of his big toe — and he'd smile, his green eyes twinkling. You'd paid him homage. You'd noticed a suave particular of his excellent form!

A rare endowment, is it not — to bear your flawed skin royally, to wear your grossness like a luxury, edema your ermine, fungus your fine black pearl?

Even pain conveyed a certain stateliness the way my father braved it, without complaint or folderol.

Once under a scourging sun, his back burned sumptuous with blisters — each white, gelatinous, scorched around the edges. I touched the largest one; he didn't flinch. I brought ointments; he scoffed! A woman's balms were not required by this fine form of a man —

This formal man, exacting, dexterous with tools, boat-builder, woodworker, rower, raker, fisherman, huntsman, climber of ladders and descender of ladders (though he earned his paycheck sessile at desks, yoked to phones, all those disappointing decades).

Yet always he held the monstrance of his body high so all might venerate.

Even his canted alcoholic walk had a certain dignity and when, uncommonly, he fell, the whole house quaked.

One New Year's Eve, I steered him into bed after a night of long imbibing prodigal even for him.

He lost his balance.

Backward, backward his fine form fell — as a great billboard might fall or a rigid tower or a Titan.

In slow motion he fell as if his own gravity defied the law of gravity

and his flushed face beamed with ecstasy

and his strong arms stretched outward as if to fly, as if to crucify,

and when at last he struck the bed, awe and pity sliced my heart

and I tucked him in: my Dionysus, my Daedalus, my hero, my sorrow, my Christ.



Kate Bernadette Benedict