Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review


Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review


Article excerpt

I'm trying to remember

the knots,

figure eight, bowline,

becket bend, my favorite,

I'm trying to see again

his brown hands in the mirror

as they twined the Duke of Windsor


until it was done and I was off

to the Pater Noster and the hereafter,

down Olmstead, then Ontario, past

Boney's Bar

where he'd practiced the sheepshank

and fisherman's bend,

where he'd made the long splice

between the two ends of frayed rope

the night my mother high-heeled out,

that's what I'm thinking as my son

ascends the climbing wall of Cathedral Rock,

stained glass saints still lifting

their staffs and rods, their cupped worlds

and glinting swords

while he stretches carefully for whatever hold,

hands powdered and taped, twelve years old,

checking my figure eight before he slid

into the harness,

checking my safety knot before he rose,

not believing I'd learned them all

in my father's smoke,

not hearing the names as I repeated them,

refusing to follow the leader

up and down, down, then up again

until it was done

and he was safely tied in

and ready to ascend,

like my old man, no doubt,

face down on the smooth, cool, walnut bar

where he'd fallen asleep and finally ceased

to exist,

the knots coming undone with his every breath,

until he was nothing but miles of rope

and a pair of knowing hands

that are my hands letting out and bringing in

my boy at the other end

of a rope that's knotted right,

cinched, taut, and holding the weight. …

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