Washing of Feet & Parenting
by Ronnie Sirmans
Washing of Feet
Father wasted no time
turning the hose onto my feet
to wash away all the fire ants,
those crawling pinpricks of blazes.
Don’t come barefoot into the garden,
he commanded. I nodded and noticed
a pale cabbage moth alight nearby
onto clouds of leaves and watching
minor sins doused and curled upon
themselves with such rich redness,
tokens that baptism risks drowning,
even from atop the fertile dark earth.
I want to ask what we
would’ve named our son.
But I don’t ask, knowing this
is a less-than-zero-sum game.
Maybe you will figure out
I have long held this inquiry
like a folded-up cheat sheet worn
down by touch into useless lint
and know my answer. Matthew,
like the younger only brother
I also never had, that son named
after my dad’s dad and unlike me,
would pass on the family name.
Then also Carleon, a middle name
combining our fathers’ firsts
for our only unbegotten son.
And just maybe I will tell you
that as I was writing this,
I was thinking how our son,
if he had appeared earlier
(some of our friends now
even have more than one),
would be graduating this year.
We’d be so proud, taking pictures,
asking about college, career plans,
forgetting as usual about miracles.
Maybe I will tell you I don’t think
these missed wisps only at night
amid awake-dreams before sleep,
and not only in the calm quiet
while I sit alone on our deck
and hear boys’ voices echo
like ghosts running outside.
I ponder our impossible son
at odd times during my day.
At the soda machine at work,
I might think: Would he like
sugar-free sodas like I do
or would he be more like you
and prefer natural sweetness?
As I see only my face staring back
from the machine’s sheened glass,
my thoughts turn to the change
that I can expect to receive
like some paltry slot jackpot
after I get what I’ve chosen.
And by the time the beverage
begins to slake my daily thirst,
I have forgotten Matt again
and I get back to work.
Ronnie Sirmans is a metro Atlanta newspaper journalist whose poems have appeared in Tar River Poetry, The South Carolina Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Gravel, Wraparound South, Unlost Journal and elsewhere. His work has appeared previously in Deep South Magazine during National Poetry Month.