I am my father’s only child, and he is my mother.

Art by Kristina Closs


by Gabrielle Bates

My father and I sit at a sushi bar in my new city
sampling three different kinds of salmon nigiri.

He tells me about a great funeral speech
he recently heard a son give for his father.

The speech was structured around regrets
everyone assumed the father didn’t have,

interspersed with hilarious stories involving boys
crashing the family van and fishing mishaps.

The ivory salmon is pale and impossibly soft.
The sliver of steelhead, orange enough

to pretend it’s salmon. How else to say it.
I am my father’s only child, and he is my mother.

We dip our chopsticks into a horseradish paste
dyed green and called wasabi. I know his regrets.

I could list them. But instead at his funeral
I will talk if I can talk about nights like this,

how good it felt just to be next to him,
to be the closest thing he had.



till it started to taste of something new and strange and far away

I find this Mark Irwin poem quite peculiar and yet so lovely and unexpected.

“A vanilla cake,”

with vanilla frosting, he’d made himself, he took
to his mother who lived alone on the mountain, where he walked
up the snowy steps under the masked pines. “Happy Birthday,” he said,
as crouched, she walked and set it on the empty table surrounded
by chairs and dozens of photographs. Where are they? she wondered,
making coffee, lighting a candle as her son made a fire, his hair the color of ice,
she thought as they both sat down, the cake between them, into which
they buried their hands, touching. “It’s still warm,” she said. “Yes,” he said,
as the wax dripped from the tall candle, and they talked. “How are things
in the valley?” she asked. “Still green,” he said, “Good, good,” she said,
as they began to feed each other with their fingers, closing their eyes,
making wishes as the stars blazed through the big window, snow blowing
from the eaves as they ate, telling of the past, then moments of the present–
the weather and the heart–continuing to eat bigger handfuls, their faces white,
       smeared, till
it started to taste of something new and strange and far away.