To My Father, on the Table, Several States Away

John Linstrom

I want you to know
your strength. It’s cold
on an operating table, I
know. You know
better. It’s cold here
in New York, funneled
vortex of blue breaking
into the east. You’re in deep
already. You taught Mom
the snowblower. You’ve pushed
that engine for years, leaned with metal
knees, with rod, pin, and bone, to clear
an icy path. I want to know
your strength. To relearn
to walk. To muster a patched body
down to the earth, find a way
to sit beside the pliant slender
boy, hand him grown-up gloves,
and trowel along with him. To teach
to bury tulip bulbs for spring.

Photo of John LinstromJohn Linstrom’s work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Atlanta Review, About Place, Vallum, Cold Mountain Review, and Commonweal Magazine. He is series editor of The Liberty Hyde Bailey Library for Cornell University Press and coedited The Liberty Hyde Bailey Gardener’s Companion: Essential Writings (Comstock-Cornell UP, 2019). More at