Poets Walk: cups to catch tears

Poets Walk: "cups to catch tears"

Location on Poets Walk Map: 67


Talking to Myself by David Kelly


Men who talk to themselves hope to talk to God one day

—Antonio Machado


Stiff, aching like a boxer on his day off,

my father worked his slow and painful way to heaven,

fifty-two years with my mother snapping at his heels

like a discontented mastiff, from paint job to shingle

to new lawn. All that time he muttered, into his beads

or without them, groaning up the stairs or bending out

from the chair in the kitchen they locked him in

when the sons of the rich came with their smiles

then walked into the night, holding his daughter’s hand

to the cars of their fathers . . . cars he couldn’t drive.

And now, with a job I despise, with an old house

creaking like a nun’s shawl around my own shoulders,

I’ve stumbled more than once around my corners

and into the accidental path of a daughter’s smile.

“You were talking to yourself,” she’d say and I’d turn

back and trudge as slowly as I could to the room

I’d left, looking into these hands that lift at night

like large fat cups to catch tears or stare back

bland and naked as infants, uncalloused, useless,

empty of those beads I put into the ground with him

thirty years ago. And I walk, as slow as I can,

toward that door without a handle and no one behind it

waiting on the other side . . . see . . . I push against it now,

I enter and it closes fast behind me and the sound you hear

Is my voice trailing off to nothing as we disappear.


David Kelly, "Talking to Myself" from Talking to Myself (Brockport: State Street Press, 1994)/ Used by permission of the author.