My Father but Better | Caely McHale
My father but better, a rabbit’s hamstring wrapped around his own.
My father but better, a cold wind blows the grasses down flat to the ground.
My father but better, red hands, red kneecaps, blue throat.
My father, better, worships the crowns on trees.
My father but better, we share nothing but frustration.
My father, better than me, does not swat the fly.
My father but his body returning from whence it came, heavy wet peat and me, trying to be
better, trying to return from whence my father came, but the grasses weave a mat for my
feet to walk on so I may not sink into the peat, so I may not sink and return.
My father looks up at me, two glittering stones on the side of the path.
When I held them in my hands they felt just-dropped, warm, a little wet, I slip them one inside
each shoe as a ward to other stones.
My father’s father’s father was better than him in the moor, knew where to place his feet, and
knew the difference between the sublime and the momentarily uncultivated.
My father and I both do not perceive this difference but are unlikely to admit it.
My father’s father’s father’s name rolled off my father’s tongue like the end of a spell—
I can hear my father saying the name, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the face.
I imagine it’s my father but better, with strong rabbit legs that leave tracks in the peat ten feet
I imagine Pryce wants us to be impressed every time.
My father but better, Pryce is a godless affront, his fingers made up of brittle curlew bones.
My father but better, Pryce takes me by the hand with those small bones and leads me to his
home, a stone and slate offering to the goddess of tall and soft grasses.
In reverence, Pryce does not swat the fly.
Inside, my father waits, but better than I’ve ever seen, covered head to toe in dark peat, white
teeth glittering through the muck.
I put my head on his lap, like I used to, but better because I haven’t in so long, and he piles my
hair on top of my head, carefully combing out the flies and setting them on the packed dirt floor.
My father tells me, you look better with your hair up.
I tell him he looks better covered in peat.
Pryce agrees on both accounts, hovering at the doorway like morning fog.
Caely McHale (she/hers) is a queer poet from Washington, DC. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University, where she was awarded the 2019-2020 Heritage Fellowship in Poetry. Her writing can be found the Heavy Feather Review, BlazeVOX, and Radar Poetry.