For an hour after learning of his own father’s death,
my father stood by the phone looking out at the empty yard. I
was ten years old and had never seen him act this way.
I’ve realized since that I had always seen him focused on a task—
carrying fresh cucumbers out to my sister, heading out
into the early morning fog to go to work, cutting wood
for our fireplace during the rainy winters. For an unsettling time
he just stared at something in the distance I could not see.
Later that day my mother came into my room and told me
what had happened. She needed to drive to town and wanted me
to stay near him. Make sure he’s not alone while I’m gone,
she said, then, before closing the door, added quietly,
This isn’t a good day.
Nearly three decades later, I found myself
standing in that same terrible silence. Like him, I have been unable
to tell my son what I saw in that first hour of grief.

John Struloeff

JOHN STRULOEFF is the author of The Man I Was Supposed to Be (Loom Press) and has published poems in The Atlantic, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, ZYZZYVA, PN Review, and elsewhere. He is a former Stegner and NEA Fellow and now directs the creative writing program at Pepperdine University.

Contributions by John Struloeff