Words From My Father That I Wrote Entirely

by Stephen Paden

In the basement, there is nothing but empty shelves
and broken mason jars;
a glittery sea of shards reflecting,
emanating diminished light
from a solitary, swinging bulb,
hanging

   in the middle of the room.

I am not alone in the cellar;
the oppressive air sticks to my lungs,
to the unwanted visitor
that reaches to my heart

   in the middle of my life.

The words are there,
but nothing in me has the strength to
bring them into existence.
Men in white offer slim hope,
but they are upstairs
and I am down here
among the shards—
every word I could have spoken,
but didn’t;
every day that reaches beyond malady

   in the middle of a lifelong choice.

I’ll stay here a while and watch the light,
and dancing shadows;
and shelves full of things I never told you.

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