Spring/Summer 2002 QW #54





The first time I found my father on the floor
was in the basement. I was fifteen. He
was coming round. It’s nothing, he said, the only
trace of fear he hadn’t scoured: sour

breath. Sitting up in a hospital bed,
he told me he’d fallen in the office entrance,
that he found himself places-with nonchalance,
as if at a certain point everyone started
waking fully dressed. And later, gown
tied, but open in the back, a glass
of water at his bedside where his false
teeth had soaked overnight, he was none
too happy to see me, or have me see him unshaved,
unsteady. I was closer to twenty by that time,
and he was embarrassed. Before the strokes killed him,
he’d have to relearn walking, but was saved
a final shame. In that hospital room, his eyes
focus when I take his hand, his lips
move. Then someone he’d mumble to slips
behind this person he doesn’t recognize.


You can read Mark Halperin’s poetry, "Strokes" in its entirety in Quarterly West issue #54.