during his 60th birthday party
Initially the shock of being singled out–The ballroom crowded and me, only ten, so badly dressed: a baggy, blue suit from Goodwill, the mahogany loafers (no socks) a scuffed casualty of one too many hand-me-downs. My grandfather just tapped my shoulder and I followed, his hips a mindless grooving to the cadence, but graceful looking. This surprised me. Still, he seemed like no one I could love–Cruel eyes, knuckles calloused, beatings enforced like trials of faith demanded by some savage god. Yet, I never danced so well. As the music slowed he pulled me close, and for a second I forgot it all, and thought that was the loving embrace I longed for. But he let me go, and I him. I stood staring at a figure I wanted to slap, or forgive for something. I didn’t know which. He slipped away, like an apple dropped from a windblown branch–No goodbye, no sign he sensed anything more than a simple moment with anyone on the planet. I don’t know why I trusted him to hold me–It was clear there was no coming back to that soul with whom I played in the sandbox every weekend before I learned to walk, who never built a sturdy sandcastle, who danced dreadfully, who could never again do anything right.
Domenic Scopa is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the 2014 recipient of the Robert K. Johnson Poetry Prize and Garvin Tate Merit Scholarship. He holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. His poetry and translations have been featured in Poetry Quarterly, Reed Magazine, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Belleville Park Pages, and many others. He is currently an adjunct professor for the Changing Lives Through Literature program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He is also a copyeditor for The Tishman Review and a manuscript reader for Hunger Mountain.