Dillon by Proxy (in the Coffee Shop) prose poem by @EvryManJac

For my son, Dillon (March 8, 1979–August 2, 2013)

©2020 by Jack A. Urquhart 

Yesterday in a coffee shop,
in an incidence of unabashed affection,
I saw a man lean to plant a kiss
atop his preteen son’s head.
The kid was a sturdy chap,
mop topped, sporting baggy shorts.
He made me think of you at twelve,
and how flush-faced in your reaction
to public displays of parental ardor,
you stirred physically away,
moved by simultaneous outbreaks
of adolescent embarrassment,
(lest, God forbid, a peer had witnessed
the parental faux pas)
and a flickering, begrudging gratitude
in your ambivalent smile.

It was not the first time in your absence
that I’ve witnessed this scene.
Not the first time the locks
on the backwaters of my heart
swung unexpectedly open
pressed by seismic waves of grief.
Not the first time I’ve gasped
in the irreversible undertow
of a simple truth, that:
(a) You are no longer living; and
(b) by what right, then, am I?

Yesterday, in that coffee shop,
in that moment of overt paternal love,
I found myself drowning again.
And then (I’m not sure how),
a sudden resuscitation and rally;
the unexpected wherewithal
to reach shore again,
to channel your absence back
into the turgid pool frothing
at the center of my ongoing life;
somehow the will to remember that:
(a) your living sister, and my loving spouse,
own rights on my splintered heart; and
(b) my love—my imperfect love
might still yield a measure of good,
a small oblation of comfort
to make in your memory?

About jaurquhart

Jack Andrew Urquhart was born in the American South. Following undergraduate work at the University of Florida, Gainesville, he taught in Florida's public schools. He earned a Master of Arts degree in English, Creative Writing, from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he was the winner of the Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Award for Fiction (1991). His work has appeared online at Clapboard House Literary Journal, Crazyhorse Literary Journal, and Standards: The International Journal of Multicultural Studies. He is the author of So They Say, a collection of self-contained, inter-connected stories and the short story, They Say You Can Stop Yourself Breathing. Formerly a writing instructor at the University of Colorado’s Writing Program, Mr. Urquhart was, until 2010, a senior analyst for the Judicial Branch of California. He resides in Washington State.
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