The Care and Keeping of Tom

Sarah Clay

My dad is alive and so I cannot write about him.
His hair grays, his stories stutter back over themselves,
his back bends in present tense.

Because he still works in Minneapolis and lives in Minnetonka,
he isn’t yet everywhere.  I don’t see him in every leaf, bird or older man.
No, I see him on Wednesdays.
Still, I take liberties with my memories of him.

Even when faced with him watching baseball or eating dinner,
I wear out his foolish mistakes again and again in my head
and go back again
to thumb the soft silk of his triumphant but small moments,

worrying over their keeping
wondering which of them will be made into necessary ghosts.
A little league trophy and the time he…
should be preserved

in shadow boxes, a place to keep his peace.
Does he lose sleep over the fact that there may not be any left,
over the collection of too many mistakes?
I wear his memory now while he is alive and wanting

to take a walk, or play with his dogs,
while his present tense roams the living room
and so I cannot write.
The memory keeping: this is my project for now.

Because someday he may find himself
almost gone and afraid
of all his actions gathered.
I want to tell him

that his heart has met him before this
but it was so much smaller then
about the size
of a baby’s fist.


Sarah Clay grew up in St. Louis Park, MN.  She lives, writes, and works in Portland, OR, and is currently an MFA candidate in Minneapolis, MN, at Hamline University. Her work has appeared in Sleet Magazine.