Slight Return

by | Nov 9, 2016 | Poetry

—Father’s Day 2014

Push me higher, higher
the boy-child squeals & his screams absorb
into summer sunlight. The dad’s twenty-something,
bored, checking cell-phone messages with one hand,
fathering with the other,

& I want to judge him harshly—his sideburns
& hipster’s beard, his hip-slung cargo shorts,
the taut body sculpted by Whole Foods & morning runs.

I put down the book I’m reading, the poems
now mystifying & incommunicable
in my built narrative of this boy & his father.

My own son climbs toward the sky
on the jungle-gym slide, his body as slender
as a cypress sapling & just as a hard.
I should be pushing him in a swing, too,

daring gravity to take him from me,
not here beneath the trees in shadows,
trying to decipher the words of a dead man.

With my now-dead father, after-work games
of catch came once a month maybe
& even then, he told me You’d have
a good breaking ball if you learned control.

I never learned control & big-league dreams
gave way to small-town mysteries
like How do I not become that father
I’ve learned how to be?


Push me higher the boy squeals again & his dad
obliges. At the apex of his ascent,
the child freezes in mid air & chains go slack.
In my mind, I see him plunge to earth.
When he falls back, the swing catches.

I stand & go to the slide & stare up at my seven-year-old,
who looks down & sees me in his shadow.
He waves & I’m blinded in sunlight
when he turns to take the ride down.
He will arrive soon, gravity bringing
him back to earth, back to me.


Slight Return


Photo “let me fly!” by my camera and me used and modified under Creative Commons License (BY-SA-2.0)


About The Author

Jeff Newberry

Jeff Newberry is an associate professor of English at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia, where he and his students edit Pegasus, a regional undergraduate literary magazine. He is the author A Visible Sign (Finishing Line Press, 2008) a 2008 nominee for the Conference on Christianity and Literature’s Book of the Year. Recently, his poetry and short fiction have appeared in Saw Palm: Florida Literature & Art and CaKe: A Journal of Poetry and Art. His poetry has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.