by D. W. Martin

We forgo shoes, hustle to the garage
to snag the ladder—two splintering sections
bowed in the middle with age, lashed
and relashed by duct tape and spit.

My father in too–tight undershirt,
anti-perspirant stains, climbs as I foot
the bottom rung, the storm pouring 
gallons in our dug-out cellar windows.  

Dirty water’s bleeding inside, three streams 
and a build-up about ready to give
our fuses a shower.  It soaks the ‘87 Sox poster,
pulps at the legs of dog-chewed tables
holding trophies from Little League
back when dad and I Saturday–stomped
to the miniature fields—together, quiet.

We’re a team again, father and son 
with some tools and a goal.  Look at him
as he swaggers flimsy up the stories 
to the gutter with a plan, stoic 
in tighty–whiteys.  And me, straining 
to hold it all steady, strapping sort, right?

Dad’s wider than the ladder; I’m weaker 
than the task, under him and the rain 
and the pressure to be more than just help.

I look diagonally up at his climb now,
wringing my t–shirt.  I play back the fear, glad 
since nothing that could have happened did, 
that he stood—still stands—single–handedly 
saving our house without any pants. 

“Don’t let it slip,” he shouts back. 
I try to hold us fast 
as he charges recklessly, 
up–and–away dad borne for once by the son.
My father with clumps of leaves,
a still–life and strobe–lit by lightning: 
then, like that, gone. 

Photo: D. W. Martin
D.W. Martin’s work has been published or is forthcoming in Defunct,
JMWW, Lake Effect, New York Quarterly, Prick of the Spindle, and Tusculum Review. He lives in Athens, Ohio.

Photo by Matt Schario