Richard Foerster

Theme with Variation

Those cautionary childhood tales
took on the truth of experience

the day my hand was held
to a stovetop’s blistering blue.

Even after, a need to trust
smoldered somewhere inside me,

making it easy to be cajoled
to thrust a hairpin into a socket.

Less the shock than the jolt of laughter
boomed at my ears like destiny,

like my father’s harangues, steeped
in a barroom brew of tease and threat,

his via negativa to manhood:
Never let them see you cry, or else

they’ll call you
______. I’ll confess
to my share of bloodied noses,

to lips sputtering with resentment
across the years, like a needle stuck

in a record’s groove. I thought of all
those boys tonight as I listened to an LP

of Sibelius’s Fifth I had to wipe clean
of five decades’ dust when it skipped

at my favorite part: where the winds begin
to soar, largamente, sun-drawn, into a sky

without horizons, and I become
the boy whose make-shift wings

fueled the furious incandescence
of his body, even though it means,

in my embrace of him, I must fall
each time into that brutal myth.

Richard Foerster grew up in the Bronx, where he spent many hours in barrooms at his father’s side. His most recent book, Boy on a Doorstep: New and Selected Poems (Tiger Bark Press, 2019) received the 2020 Poetry by the Sea Book Award. He now lives in a former Nazarene church in Eliot, Maine.

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Spring 2021