1   My Father At the End of the World

I have gone to live on a desert island & brought only my sense of smell.
So far,
I survive on seawater & good luck. The salt enters my blood,
conjures hallucinations of a version of me that knows how to survive at all.

My father has long prepared me for the apocalypse,
each Boy Scout knot still bound to brainstem,
each small insult a memorized Bible verse.
When I return home, I mirror his disgust.
I ridicule the smallness of his life, as if
I have not made it small through comparison.
I come home from college & mock his drawl.
I am boring my father with how often I ruin my future.
I have named myself too fluid to be called just a man,
masculinity not so much a mantra,
but instead a reckoning of the blood.
I have built a house beside the river & forgotten how it floods.

2   My Father, While Drinking Bud Light, Explains Class

Sky-taunt loud, he recalls beheading chickens in the night,
& I must remember, my father was a person
before I met him. The blood on his hands is just blood.

He coined new meanings for hunger, plucked
from his mother’s mouth. He too has fed me
what once he scraped from the inside of a body,
what he conjured, yes, from blood, yes,
a living thing, his hand cradling blade &
cornbread. In his garden,
nothing grows unless something first dies.

I will, however, inherit this blood.
I cram my mouth with his neckties,
& I eat my father whole.

3    My Father at the Beginning of the World

Once, my father created the world.
He said, let there be light
& woke the entire neighborhood.
He said let there be land, & a backyard
sprung from his mouth, knotted a tire swing
from his spine.

Once, my father enlisted in the army,
learned to construct missiles
from arable soil & fried chicken.
In his garden, nothing can grow
unless first something is blown to smithereens.
I spent the first few years of my life
feasting on plutonium & promise.

My father said, it is a delegate situation,
when he meant to say delicate.
Sometimes, my father is delicate.
I forget that too often.
Sometimes I am delicate.
I forget that too often.

Once, my father cut open his palm,
bled into the dirt.
Here, this is where I grew.


Derek Berry is a poet & novelist living in South Carolina. His first novel Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County was released by PRA Publishing in 2016. He is also the author of the self-published poetry chapbook Skinny Dipping with Strangers and the forthcoming chapbook Hand Grenade of Hymns (PRA Publishing, 2018). He is the founder and current president of The Unspoken Word, a literary non-profit based in Charleston, SC which provides an independent home for the poetic arts.