The Coil
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The Coil

My Father at the Funeral

Poem by Helen Park

My father sings
at his mother’s funeral.
His voice ambushes
the pews, a dusty, trembling
wire of sound that runs
through the mourners’
bodies of dough.

He keeps it together
until the last line
when from the depths
a barbed fishing hook
nabs his lower lip
and pulls the hole
wider —
the heart darts out —
something severs —
the congregation is gone:
instead he sees
his mother listening to him
sing her favorite song
about the first home,
before the forest of lidless children,
before the line drawn in sand
cast out a million screaming
bits of bone.

After the last note
he clunks the microphone
down on the podium;
he looks at everyone
foreignly — he is alone
in this grief:
sitting in a row-
boat with one oar,
carving circles
in lapless water

while the rest of us
stand on the shore, disguised
in our bark faces.
No wind
brings waves
to shepherd the boat
away from the center.
The prayers we offer
provide no shelter.

The 2017 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

We are pleased to announce this poem as the fifth place winner for the 2017 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry, honoring the independent press’ best poems and hybrid works of the year. The winners are selected by an external panel that judges all pieces blind and chooses the full list of 12 finalists from hundreds of entries. Alternating Current does not determine the final outcome for the judging; the external judges’ decisions are final.

HELEN PARK’s work appears or is forthcoming in The Flexible Persona, Sleet Magazine, Inertia Magazine, Cleaver Magazine, Cactus Heart Press, Hamilton Stone Review, Eclectica Magazine, Visitant Lit, Palaver Journal, the Asian American Female Anthology, Yellow as Turmeric; Fragrant as Cloves (Deep Bowl Press, 2008) and others. Read more about her work at her website.



Literature to change your lightbulb.

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The Coil

The Coil

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