Two Poems by Jesse Lee Kercheval

Ghost Parent

Forty years has passed
more time than was necessary
for me to dream I am sitting beside you
and happily holding your hand. 
You tapping my head is if you were
testing a melon.
Saying, Sounds hollow—must be ripe.
My father, I think now, though then I would have thought
Dad or Daddy, words that never come
to me now.
I wake up
imagine I am walking with you
down to the water
along the sand beach a block from my house
in Montevideo, though this one
is on a continent you never set foot on—
or I don’t think you did. You were stationed
in Panama, which is in Central America
not South America and is over 3000 miles away
from Uruguay.

But I pretend you are here. 
Ask you what you think of the cruise boats
and container ships that hover on the horizon
I imagine you asking about my children
though I cannot really imagine what you would say
about either of those things.
I tell you we are all mostly happy, working hard.
In this waking dream, I hear you say:
Don’t worry, keep walking, I’m right beside you 
and you are, my imaginary father.
We’re never alone after all.  

I have not been Loud

enough. Have not
raised my voice
raised my hand

Now I shout

& everyone in the meeting
stops. Power point
projecting only silence

no one reading off
each bullet point  
each agenda item

Yes, someone says
Stop. &
switches the computer off
Someone else turns on the lights

One by one
we leave the room
without a motion
without debate without a vote
without adjourning

Outside it is still winter
but the sun is

 Jesse Lee Kercheval was born in France and now divides her time between Madison, Wisconsin and Montevideo, Uruguay. She is a poet, fiction writer and memoirist, author of the poetry collections Dog Angel and Cinema Muto, winner of the Crab Orchard Open Selection Award, as well as The Alice Stories, winner of the Prairie Schooner Fiction Book Prize and the memoir Space, winner of the Alex Award from the American Library Association. Her poetry collection America that island off the coast of France won the Dorset Prize and is forthcoming from Tupelo Press. She is also a translator whose translations include The Invisible Bridge/ El puente invisible: Selected Poems of Circe Maia. She is the Zona Gale Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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