» Poetry

Echolocation & Proof


I begin with near-silence,

the droning refrigerator,

a dog barking far off.

You’ve just fallen asleep

as morning splinters

through the blinds.

He kicks off his boots,

braces himself on the dresser,

pulls at the leg of his jeans.

Something wakes you—

a knocked over jar of change,

a picture frame falling flat.

You must miss the feeling

of waking in the night

knowing exactly where

you are, hearing only

your brothers’ muffled voices

through the wall. Years later,

nights when my friends and I

stay up until dawn,

you’ll wake this way again

to laughter resonating

down the hall. One night,

to meet our girlfriends,

J. T. and I will sneak

to Arroyo Vista Park.

You’ll wedge a drumstick

in the window-track and wait

for our knock at the door.

After sending J. T. home,

you’ll say When it’s quiet, I know

somethin’ aint right. Because

this all feels close enough

to the truth, and because I have

no evidence I was made

the usual way—not even a picture

of you and my father together—

I’ve made this:

In splinters of

morning, you pull me from

his open mouth while he sleeps,

piece me together from handfuls

of his running breath, the small

sound of whitewater.



The fact is I was made

from what Whitman called

“father-stuff,” from a current

of you and from being held.

This—the raw physiology of it—

may explain why most fathers

think only of pushing their sons

into the world and most mothers

only of keeping them from it.

But the facts only tell us

half of every story, and never

the half we need. I have

a photograph taken just weeks

after I was born. I was

sleeping on your bare chest.

You were slouched in an armchair

with your fingers laced like rivulets

under my feet. These are facts—

even if you forgot, and even if all

I remember from being with you

before Arizona is the smell of

shop grease and dipping tobacco,

you once held me the way

a riverbed wants to hold a river.


Erik Wilbur

Erik Wilbur teaches writing at Mohave Community College in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. He is also the program director of Real Toads Poetry Society, a literary organization that provides opportunities for residents of rural Arizona communities to learn about, experience, and share works of literary art. His work has recently appeared in The Southampton Review, New Ohio Review Online, and Tahoma Literary Review.