Thomas March

Thomas March is a poet, critic, and teacher who lives in New York City.  His poetry column, “Appreciations,” which appears regularly in Lambda Literary Review, promotes new work by offering close readings of poems from recent collections. His work has also appeared in The Believer, Bellevue Literary Review, The Account, The Common Online, Confrontation, The Good Men Project, Pleiades, and RHINO. www.thomasmarch.org twitter: @realThomasMarch

 

Never the Belt

 

Never the belt—the belt

too like his own father

whose belt had its own name

that the whiskey gave it—

so never the whiskey

in the house, just the beer

for after the yard work—

but still, “Your ass is grass,

and I’m gonna mow it!”

when it would come to that.

Never the belt—instead

the ping pong paddle, wood

just firm and flexible

enough to sting, not bruise—

never branding the boy

(as he had been) as “boy,”

the name his father had

for whoever it was

tumbling through his vision—

and my padding myself

with wash cloths and even

paperback books (more like

a game than a beating)

until it was the books,

their shape and sound so sharp

there was no pretending.

Then we had to decide

how the next blow would fall—

full forward into farce

or back to the breaking

of paddles—in silence,

until I said, “I am

too old for this” and was.

So were we both too old

and so unlike his own

father, who didn’t live

long enough for wisdom.

And so never the belt

or the paddle, either,

or calling a boy “boy,”

but his own name, only.

 

 

The Sacrifice of Isaac

 

How could my faith ever have been his fault—

and who would ever look to be betrayed,

when love will leaven wariness with hope?

 

The bonds weren’t necessary, just that bond

that made  me see the shining blade as just

a test—of bravery and loyalty—the trust

a son should bear. But who, knowing favor,

when favor hadn’t stopped the rising steel

could credit favor when it only fell

to slice beneath the ropes that held me still?

 

What was the magic in my lying down

that drew the knife back swiftly to his side?

It’s something—being blessed by willingness—

it’s something. But it doesn’t bear relief.

 

 

Your T-Shirt

 

We earned our wounds those summer afternoons—

tackling each other, jumping, climbing things—

the worst was just a fall as we walked home.

I couldn’t feel, until I saw your face—

the way confusion blossomed into shock

before contracting into cool concern—

the glass embedded deep, behind my knee.

 

I couldn’t feel the blood until you pressed

your thumb against the inside of my leg

and eased the glass out with your other hand—

then, as the pooling thickness of my blood

diluted in the slickness of your sweat,

you took your t-shirt off and wrapped it tight

around my knee.

 

And bearing half my weight

you helped me home—and carefully undressed

and dressed the wound again. Maybe you kissed

it once, before you taped the bandage on.

I might have kissed you better at the door.

Or that’s a wish that only memory grants.

 

The scar is real but disappears—each year

it fades, just as your t-shirt has—and you

would never guess how well it fits me, still

a bloodstained totem of an old taboo.

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