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Butch Poem 4: Losing a Father

Elizabeth Bradfield

With him, something left her, some hook
by which she gaffed the world
and held it to sense, to love, to logic

despite the awkward ground she'd learned
to claim. His best son, at his side
she cleared gutters of leaves, shoveled

the drive, changed the Chevy's oil,
sat back after dinner
heavy in a chair. She learned

to be a gentleman. Hard at first for him
to see her tapping out his cigarettes,
wearing his old belt and shoes, to see

what she took as her own.
He came again to love her,
and to love even what rested silent

between them. And she knew her luck.
But when he died some of her swagger,
some of her bullheaded sureness, some hope

to be praised for the likeness she'd made
was shaken. I have no metaphors to lend this,
just witness to her decentering, just certainty

that only the loss of her mother
—the self she made herself against—
could be more difficult.

Elizabeth Bradfield

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