When it comes it will be, I think
like the kick
of my father’s twelve gauge shotgun
when I was nine. Anticipated glory, it exploded
inside my body, surprising sinew, unbuckling
my joints. I would have fallen backward
but my father’s hewn hands, firm
on my shoulders held me fast to the world.

Now fifty yards into the woods and coughing again,
he leans unsteadily against a tree and waits
for the spasm to pass.
Extra innings
is what the doctor says we have of him now.
Extra innings, the measured part of the game
concluded, the rulebook suspended,
the crowd antsy in their seats.

Doubtless he should not be walking in the woods at all,
though I likely should not have panicked five minutes ago
finding him suddenly gone from the porch.
He will sit now on a boulder,
to tease a tendril of breath out of the thin air,
shaking his head at me, sheepish
as if this weakness were his own doing
(fathers should be strong for their sons).
But he is tired; the pretense will not hold;
he will walk back to the house slowly
leaning on my arm.

The first time I fired the shotgun
it was exactly as I thought it would be, exactly,
except that nothing could have prepared me
for that fierce blow, delivered from nowhere
that I could see. Obdurate, intractable, more genuine
than any seem thing. It was not the force,
but the sudden clear knowledge
that knocked the wind out of me.