Peter Neil Carroll

Other Men’s Fathers


I write about other men’s fathers,

their distance from sons left behind,

how they stung young eyes at the threshold

of blue smoke, bawdy sounds of liquor

talking, the smack across a boy’s cheek.


John’s father not once carried a house key,

his wife would be there, whenever

it was the time, and nervous John read

the clock with one eye. Or Mickey’s Pop

who shocked himself installing electricity,

and shocked again forcing Mickey’s hand

onto an irate fuse. The boy had laughed

at Pop’s incandescence, Mickey had a lesson

in hiding delight. George’s inebriated Dad

steered the pickup into a telephone pole,

proved he could handle the door-to-door insurance,

left a munificent annuity for George’s tuition.


My own father, lacking those devious gifts,

whose curiosity ate away infallibility

and didn’t hide his flaws,

he is so much harder to sketch on paper,

his outline blurs into my mother’s hair,

I had so much less to fight, to prove.


Peter Neil Carroll’s newest collection, An Elegy for Lovers, will be published in 2018. Other volumes include The Truth Lies on Earth (Turning Point Press, 2017); Fracking Dakota: Poems for a Wounded Land; and A Child Turns Back to Wave: Poetry of Lost Places which won the Prize Americana. His poems have appeared recently in Southern Humanities Review, Tar River Poetry Review, Spillway, Poet Lore, Southern Quarterly, Amsterdam Quarterly, and The Aurorean (nominated for a Pushcart). He is the Poetry Moderator for