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  • The Nurse and the Lights, and: Father as Jellyfish
  • Sjohnna McCray (bio)

The Nurse and the Lights

A heavyset nurse bends over my father who, on his belly, looks nothing like a baby.

She gently swabs his rear end clean. Snow falls

in the distant window. It’s near the holidays. Her socks remind me.

Green holly and red berries adorn her thick ankles. Father’s skin up in rows

from under her rag. Not a hair out of place, she smiles this look

of benevolence. It’s Christmas, and the workers in the heart of the city are sweeping

debris from the streets, where they’ll string white lights around lampposts, around their monuments. [End Page 82]

Father as Jellyfish

My son shivers in the babble of dreams.      For now, he only knows a few things:

rough beard, blankets, and breasts. He grips      the world in his hands. Soon enough,

he’ll spend words the way the nouveau riche      burn money—with haste and an impracticality

for fashion. The jargon of the school yard snapcracklepop!      Bling in the mouth, meaning askew.

Later, he’ll strike pose after endless pose:      insecurity, pride, and lust. His door will shut.

He’ll figure if he’s like most men:      average penis, thin arms, a basic understanding of math.

Will he work? Be an intellectual?      Will he break the earth with those soft hands?

But tonight, behind the bars of his crib,      he is a prince in the kingdom of rhymes.

From under the sea, he sees me:      hovering head and tentacles,

bloated and ripe with meaning.      As sleep descends, I arrange myself,

floating near the shore of his life      like stars, like hurdles, like gravity.

Stingers in place, I wait. [End Page 83]

Sjohnna McCray

sjohnna mccray is from Cincinnati, Ohio, and earned his MFA from the University of Virginia. His poems have recently appeared in the Chicago Quarterly Review, Common Ground Review, and Slipstream. He is an English instructor at Savannah State University.



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pp. 82-83
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