The Adirondack Review

What They Left Out of My Obituary:
Father Pritikin, Dead at 85

You've heard of me: when I was seventeen
I threw the perfect pass, seventy yards,
breaking the school record. Those present said
the pigskin arched into the sun, but I
saw nothing, only that same sun spinning spots
while my breath's smoke pawed the cold.

You wouldn't have heard I spent my twenty-first
in a Guatemalan hut, shivering with heat,
brown-skinned women crowding me, muttering padre,
padre, and forcing me to drink hot tea.

Or that at seven, I found my mother's razor
in the bathtub nook and slipped my thumb across
the blade.  As blood spilled forth I knew
nothing but dead leaves crisping underfoot.

When I was conceived, it was winter.  That spring
the snow never melted, just crusted into ice.
My mother toe-heeled, toe-heeled as belly swelled,
or did she run, hoping to slip, to jar me loose?

At fourteen, I found freckles, light and flat,
across the clavicle of a girl on the field
hockey team, constellations spilling across bare
shoulders while the trees pulsed green.


I heard Vlasta got her hands on a bit
of beef and I have a Canon Fronsac
hidden here in my desk,
but now a dark bloom on his right cheek—

It appeared when he was soaking
in his acetate bath (the lights are too
bright in that lab) and they demand
it fixed, tonight, after I fill
the bullet hole in
Mikhoels (motor accident)
for his lying-in-state.

I promised, I know, but this
is a delicate matter, what with
nights, boots up the back staircase,
mornings, doors jawing open
and new neighbors next week.

You cannot blame me for this,
at least. And I send flowers, your favorite,
Annushka— hothouse amaryllis—
very hard to come by this time of year.
Please don't pout. I'd prefer your
cheek, truly, to his, to a night spent
swabbing his dark blossom with bleach.

Shelley Puhak's poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, New Delta Review, Ontario Review and Third Coast. She is a 2004 graduate of the Low-Residency MFA program at the University of New Orleans.