Home > Health > Mt. Nebo, Arkansas, late August

Mt. Nebo, Arkansas, late August

January 21, 2010

by Brent Fisk

There will come a day when the cough won’t fade,
when the shadow on the lung won’t clear.

Now we’re coming home, clipping off the toll booths
one by one. Biopsy results are for Wednesdays, 9 a.m.

Until then you are purely my father buying breakfast
and time, growing drowsy behind the wheel.

Wake up old man and see how the heat blurs the road ahead.
We were lost soon as we crossed on the ferry.

You crave more coffee, another cigarette, ten more
good years of setting up our camper on a concrete pad,

stepping into flip flops on Mt. Nebo and shuffling off
through the acorns and hickories on the way to the public bath.

The hot showers steam the mirror so you don’t see
how ashen you’ve become. Steady on, wobble home

if you can. The daddy-longlegs are flat against the wall.
The mist is burning off over Dardenelle and we take

the switchbacks one by one. All those drop deads
I gave you years ago—I never thought you’d follow through.

Fish out one more pack of Camels, let the cellophane blacken
in the smoking fire. We have interstate to sleep through,

raccoons to rob us blind. So let’s steal one more week of daylight—
dream of winking owls deep in the spruce,

cardinals rising up the thermal mountain, my hand
on your cool shoulder shaking you awake.


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Brent Fisk is a writer from Bowling Green, Kentucky. He has work forthcoming in Minnetonka Review, Autumn Sky Poetry, and Rattle. He tells us that this and the other poem of his that we’ll be publishing in this issue are both over a year old, and kind of fell onto the paper they way they are. Poets get lucky like that from time to time.

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  1. Heather Reid
    January 21, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    I think this is a beautifully written poem. I don’t live in America but I can picture you and your father and your journey. Fantastic lines, ‘you are purely my father buying breakfast and time..’, ‘All those drop deads I gave you years ago – I never thought you’d follow through.’I look forward to reading your next poem.

  2. Tom Sheehan
    January 21, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Brent,
    Thank you for all the asides of your trip: the message, the alert, the realities coming on many of us. Your poem touches all the edges, working the way a poem should.

  3. January 21, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Wow. Great poem. What Tom said.

  4. January 21, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    I love the raccoons particularly.

  5. January 22, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Written like a poem should be–touching all the senses, waking up deeply buried emotions such as fear of a loved one’s dying, yet as art should, wrapping it all up with the gauze of unaffected beauty. A work of the muse, indeed, a poem as I often describe one such as “having written itself”, or better yet one that came as “the great flint” awaited in “Bushed” by Earle Birney, “to come singing into his heart.”

  6. Laurie
    January 22, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    AWE and WOW. Very beautiful. Thank you for taking me on this wonderful journey, and sharing the memories. Because of what I do for a living, I really felt the power behind the biopsy, the desire for a cigarette, and the part about the cough.

  7. Maureen Jivani
    January 22, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Great poem! Some terrific use of line breaks, Thank you.

  8. January 29, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Very moving, love the line “all those drop deads/I gave you years ago” shows growth, change, brings tears to my eyes. Good work.

  9. Rich Jordan
    January 30, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    This is a very effective poem, Brent.

  10. Barbara LaMorticella
    February 23, 2010 at 3:08 am

    You told this story well, Brent.

  1. August 26, 2010 at 4:25 pm
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