Gary Fincke is the Writers' Institute Director at Susquehanna University. His most recent books are a book of poems, The Technology of Paradise (Avisson, 1998), and a book of stories, Emergency Calls (Missouri, 1996). He currently lives in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. Other work by Gary Fincke published in Weber Studies can be seen at: Other work by Gary Fincke published in Weber can be seen at: Vol. 18.2 (poetry), Vol. 21.2 (poetry), Vol. 22.3 (essay). and Vol. 24.1 (essay).
The evening Mike Shereba, our neighbor,
Put a shotgun in his mouth, my father
Muttered "weak is all." He meant hard drinking,
What it comes to, but the next afternoon
I took a full set of spikes just below
My knee in a track practice interval
Because I wouldn't lengthen my distance
By leaving the rail. "Lucky you," coach said,
Meaning I was missing six more quarters,
But these holes demanded the certainty
Of a tetanus shot, and my father
Walked me into the clinic to make sure
The doctor did more than scrub and cover.
"Almost's not good enough," he said, watching
The doctor put the syringe to my arm.
And ever shall be, I moaned to myself,
But suddenly my father resembled
Somebody idling in a sealed garage.
"Hold on a bit," he said, but the doctor
Lowered his head and raised his feet without
Waiting for directions or uttering
The soft names of pantywaist and sissy
I'd been listening to for sixteen years.
Sixthirty, dark in March, and my father
Said "No" to my offer to drive. He stopped
On the street of taverns below our house.
"For dinner," he said, and he ordered us
Cheeseburgers and ginger ale, and whispered,
"Look all you want," waving his glass toward
So many strangers I might have blacked out
In our Chevy, slumped on the seat for miles.
No And No, Then Yes
My wife shows me the picture of her class
And says, "Which one?" asking me to pick out
The boy who's threatened her and his classmates.
Fifteen boys, but I murmur no and no
And no for the short and skinny who stand
In the front row, ignore the six smilers
And the two who are neatly dressed. To Live,
He'd written: Carl, Sam, Conrad, Ronny.
To Die: Ellen, Jennifer, Mrs. Bitch.
That boy laid razor blades in her gradebook,
Passed a picture of Gretchen the smart girl
With a knife in her chest. I see the four
Who stay suspects file in with the late bell.
They keep to themselves, do the blank paper
Homework. They fail her quizzes, memorize
Only the names they hate, and when, at last,
I choose, my wife says no and no, then yes,
Drives us to the grocery that seems filled
With boys who steer their mothers to sugar,
To salt, to fat and starch, naming their needs
In the awful squeak of unchanged voices.
Yes and yes and yes, I say to my wife,
Laughing, but outside, a half hour later,
One boy stands between us and our locked car.
My wife shifts her bag. I stare at his hands,
Ashamed, while she talks and works free her key.