for Tom


Since you were fighting the Cold War
on the cold plains of South Dakota,
you didn’t watch me go off tackle

on a weird trap play for thirty yards
and the only touchdown of my scrawny life.
But all through your summer leave,

on what passed for our lawn, 
you’d tackled me firmly enough, 
over and over, until I absorbed

an elementary rhythm. The cadences
of others undergird everything. 
How often we imagine our words

our own. At our desks, we might
dream of milling boards to make
for ourselves what we’d hauled in

from some toney curbstone.
When you returned to Detroit’s
combustion, you spoke of Antigone,

her awful choice between king
and brother, between heart and head. 
Your empathy became my own.

Each year, I teach the play,
standing among the dead on a dry
Greek plain, but also in our flat—

you leaning down, book in hand, 
noting our genius for blood,
for carving lines into the stony earth.


Michael Lauchlan of Michigan has published poems anthologies and journals including New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, Ninth Letter, English Journal, The Dark Horse, Tar River Poetry, Sugar House Review, and elsewhere. His most recent collection is Trumbull Ave. (Wayne State University Press, 2015).