by P.S. Dean
Shoved behind a stack of hymnals
and fishing lures
my father at twenty-five posing
next to a church steeple.
I imagine his father,
ferrying a johnboat full of deacons
through the flooded cemetery.
By nightfall, he believes
the prow will push through the stars.
When the river rose up,
sandbagged a crooked horseshoe
at the sanctuary’s oak doors
and prayed around the silt
that shifted beneath their toes.
The anchor my father hooked
onto the steeple so that his father
could carry out an armful of testaments
now sits beside the fireplace
as nothing more than a paperweight.
I’ve watched my father with the anchor
and a water-stained book.
He waits until spring to feel
the ink that’s dried across the page
like a language I can never understand.
P.S. Dean received an MFA in poetry from the University of Mississippi in 2013. He is originally from Jackson and currently lives and teaches in New Orleans. This poem is part of his thesis manuscript.