Ryan Jordan

May 22, 1982, Chicago Illinois
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Proverbs 13:24

Proverbs 13:24

He stares at his feet so
he doesn’t see the belt
In his father’s grip.

Over dinner, he’d spoken up,
Or out,
Or back,
The exact angle or fact of the offense
Made moot by this point.

Well versed, by now, to the rhythm
Of this particular ritual,
He relents.

Soundless, he turns round
Bends over the bedding,
The linen, riddled and ripe with the cloying hint
Of a lilac inspired Detergent,
The blanket emblazoned in the primary school
Colors of some
Saturday morning cartoon.

The boy prostrates, as if in prayer
To his First Father, Himself speechless these
2,000 years past,
Time spent, perhaps, in puzzlement
At his own Son’s curious punishment.

first strike not entirely unlike
A black cloud’s first clap,
Daunting, but distant,
And yet,
In a sigh of instants
Barely two beats time,
The second blow arrives.

Gunshot swift
But insistent,
A fork of lightning which
Rips skin and
Predicts the fire to follow.

Watches don’t work in this storm.
Clock hands hush to a halt.

Pale red ribbons branded into thighs,
Tanned cow hide bites goose flesh.

Until, finally, a breach in the levee-
salt tinged rivers run
Down round
The curve of soft cheeks

And what of the father?
And what of his father?
And his?
And his?
And his?
Four graves arrayed in a mound of earth,
Dug into the russet clay of decades,
Four fathers gone to glory,
Four ghosts long since gone

The master grips the black whip tight
His wheat-straw boater blocks the sun,
His servant hugs the waist
Of a oak tree’s trunk

Fluent, by now, in this strange dialect,
A man made a boy awaits the
Frenzied kiss
Of the whip’s tongue tip
While far off in the distance
Storm-clouds look on
Witnesses to all of this
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