I learned from my father how to love
the work, to not settle for paper mill
button-pusher to earn retirement pay
forty years away, a gold watch shackled
to my wrist. I learned I could sell cookies
to a Girl Scout and how to cross the god
damn line of vulgarity with a hearty
guffaw. I learned to defy the odd
talents, like bowling and poetry, how
they score alike, the patience to move over
one thin board to crank a gutter to strike.
I learned to talk when I can get anyone
to listen, that what I say means everything,
to steal a good story and make it my own.
Like a stuntman, I learned not to fear the fire,
the car crash, to roll through any deadly
drop. To save one bullet. For every disaster
you inspire, you must offer a fix: the last
roll of duct tape, a sheepish sidearm hug,
the gift of a cauterized heart.
Cathryn Cofell is a UW-Eau Claire grad who resides in Appleton. Her latest collection, Stick Figure with Skirt, was awarded the 2019 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award and is due out in November 2019. This poem is reprinted with permission of the author.