Home > Poetry > Portrait of Father in a Dust Storm
Published: Tue Oct 15 1985
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
Portrait of Father in a Dust Storm

Something wants to cry,
Something else wants to laugh

At the rimless glasses
And business suit,

The lightening rod in one hand,
Symbol of Insurance,

The World War II block warden’s
Helmet in the other.

At times I feel
Like painting over

The background scene with the black
’37 Chevy on a river road

The shabby Kansas farm houses
And rachitic wind pumps.

I’m satisfied, though, with
The sky from horizon to edges

Burgundy orange with blown dust
And with the way I have the wind

Wrecking the part in his black hair
And twisting his tie, and he

Still smiling
His posed-for-a-picture smile.

The dust storm is my excuse
for not doing the better job with his eyes:

The blurs, the smudges in front
Of his glasses are so that I won’t

Have to explain that I don’t know
What to put there, how

Death only silenced his silence.

See what's inside AGNI 22

Norman Dukes (1942–1984) published a chapbook, The Reckless Sleeper, with the Pourboire Press. His poems appear in many magazines, including Salamagundi, Iowa Review, Ploughshares, kayak, and Virginia Quarterly.

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