When My Father Tells Me I Had a Great Childhood

by William Fargason

I don’t say     his temper was a sun
flare     his belt across my back
I don’t say     his word ever the last

sound each afternoon through
the hallways     I don’t say     muscadine
say     buckeye say     serrated say

the woods     the only place I felt safe
I don’t say my shirt     ripped down the back
like a sheet of paper     don’t say     I knew

one day he would kill me     or I would have to
kill him     don’t say    a word as I tremble
next to my bed     I don’t say     my prayers

to the god of that cold house     I don’t
say     anything back     I get up off my knees

William Fargason is the author of Love Song to the Demon-Possessed Pigs of Gadara (University of Iowa Press, April 2020), winner of the 2019 Iowa Poetry Prize. His poetry has appeared in The Threepenny Review, Prairie Schooner, New England Review, Barrow Street, Indiana Review, Rattle, The Cincinnati Review, Narrative, and elsewhere. He received two awards from the Academy of American Poets, a scholarship to Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and a 2018-2019 Kingsbury Fellowship. He earned a BA in English from Auburn University, an MFA in poetry from the University of Maryland, and a PhD in poetry from Florida State University, where he taught creative writing. He is the Poetry Editor of Split Lip. He lives with himself in Tallahassee, Florida.