by | Jul 14, 2015 | Poetry

Do you feel like you’ve missed something? the man asks
his father. That, the old man says, is your issue, not mine.
The son’s perplexed by this answer.
Perhaps the father is rousing his kid after a loss,
Buck up, boy! No use crying over spilled milk. Move on.
Perhaps this is just how the father lives, always moving
forward, the war-torn, desperate homeland banished
to memory. Still, his father is not impervious.
All those Summer sports programs for Special kids
he took the boy to: bowling, merely rolling a ball
down a wooden ramp onto the lane, no cupping the ball
in your palms, no sloping of back, bending knees,
swinging arm, flexing wrist, releasing grip;
horseback riding, aides lifting you unto the horse.
In the barn, two 4-H teens lead each horse
and disabled rider in a circle. No unbridled
galloping, wind gusting past. Sport, yet not sport.
Surely, the father felt something. Surely, it must’ve made you sad,
the boy prods, watching other kids play, shoot water-guns,
watching the neighbor’s Thanksgiving game of touch football.
We did other things, the father replies flatly, admits nothing.
True, there were other bonding rituals: doctors, therapy, food,
Vivaldi, movies. The son glances at his father who wears
that obdurate expression he knows from childhood.
Don’t push. Three strikes and you’re out!
Life isn’t a game, he thinks, a discernible tally of wins, losses.
The old man is musing about missing Michigan snow, clean,
bright, but not as bright as Seattle sky on a rare rain-free night.
To have this time together, stargazing, is its own lesson
of loss, its own celebratory win.


Photo: Rising from the Ashes by Sathish J

About The Author

Johnson Cheu

Johnson Cheu’s poetry and essays have appeared in publications such as Family Matters: Poems of our Families, Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images, and Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out, and most recently in Chatauqua Literary Journal and 3Elements Literary Review. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, he served as the inaugural fiction/poetry editor of Disability Studies Quarterly, and he is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures at Michigan State University.