Poems by Eric Morago

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Icarus

Was Daedalus really stricken with grief when Icarus fell into the sea?
Or just disappointed by the design failure?

—Alison Bechdel

I.

My father once told me
he knew how to ride a unicycle.

I can’t imagine him balancing
on one wheel—a clown
riding down the block
again and again, performing
for neighbors and friends
as they watched in awe
of his foolishness, waiting
to see if he’d lose it and fall.

I asked if he still knew how.

It’s not like riding a bicycle.
He said.
You forget.

II.

Uncle Bill died,
my father informs me
via text message.

I hardly remember
my great uncle.

He hated the name William.
Wanted us to call him Bill
or Billy, said William
was his father’s name.
It felt bitter
and metallic on his tongue—
a worn penny mistaken for candy.
I wonder if this is the same reason
my father, named for his father,
went by Dick rather than Richard.
The service is Friday morning
Can you make it?

my father asks.

I’ll try, I say.

III.

There are ghosts
haunting the silence
I’ve grown accustomed to
in our conversations. They linger
longer than usual before a heavy question.

So what are your plans after you finish school?

Poetry
isn’t the response he wants—
it doesn’t come with a business plan.
He sees it gaining little interest,
unable to cover the cost
of living, let alone dying.

You know,
if you die,
we’ll be left
with your debt.

Words form angry mobs
in the back of my throat.
They want to storm the castle
walls my father’s built between us.

I swallow them instead.
All I can say is don’t worry.

IV.

He does worry.

I don’t know if it’s the money
or my falling which scares him more.

I like to think he’s disappointed
in himself for forgetting, for becoming
the man he swore as a son he wouldn’t—
wanting for me his own flawed designs,
sorry he did not name me after him.

The Night of My Ten-Year Reunion

I stay home, drinking
from a bottle of scotch,
aged twelve years.

Did you ever want to be more than this, I ask it.

Sure.

Well what then?

A Molotov cocktail. How about you?

I don’t know. A poet, I guess.

You and I, we aren’t that different, it tells me.

As I take another swig,
I can feel my skin turn to glass,
my booze-soaked guts burning,
and all I want is to throw myself
against this world, shatter and explode—
shatter and explode, into one great fireball
people won’t soon forget.