As for Knowing Him


I didn’t. Neither could you imagine
just what it’s like.

My father remembers him in a dream
he recounts over breakfast. Not exactly hard,

he says, meaning his face. Lifts the spoon
to his mouth. Have you ever seen a man

with multiple sclerosis? We need more milk.
My father needs a father. Everybody who’s grown

gets to claim orphan status. It is always
another day around here. The television says two

for the price of one. The window shows a starling
considering a seed. Some people leave behind

almost everything they came with. He worked the radios,
my father says. I work the bowl of figs, the most unlucky

fruit. When anyone says In the war I am prone to tuning out.
This is widely considered to be my best quality.

The television ups the ante,
Three for the price of one. I hold my breath

for four. I like to live in infomercials, where everything
is so sincere. Meanwhile the starling has left

the seed and the window square behind.
The figs are perfectly ripe.

My father reaches for my hand
then changes direction for the cereal. As for me,

I will take everything else. How can someone be jaded
when they’ve never been rubbed by something hard.

My father has never said this to me but everything in this house
is so plush. Now comes the story of how he pushed

the wheelchair down the houseramp.
The wheelchair tipping. The other father on the ground, man

downlike. The cereal box, too,
lays sideways.

I have never seen a man with multiple sclerosis. Forgive me,
my father says. I am just a young man again.

Caroline Schmidt