Today I learned to save lives

from a fireman who reminded me

of my father, also a firefighter,

a man I long expected

would murder me

and/or my mother



-- same black mustache and gruff demeanor

same patches of incorrect grammar

and lowball attempts at humor --


Did I detect some antagonism

or was I projecting?

Could the instructor tell I was queer

and just not like me?

He was probably annoyed

that I was on my phone constantly

but the video was boring,

and ugly, so I preferred

just listening.

I wanted to learn, truly,

how to save somebody


and if broken ribs

were an inevitability?

-- I imagined

the bones snapping

under my hands --

he answered

it happens

but not always

and anyways

it’s better

than dying.


He’d broken a few ribs

he told us somberly


-- and I guess my dad was so willing

to break bones because

he’d done it


considered breaking

a byproduct of saving,

got used to the sharp sound

and feeling,

I don’t know --


but it seemed to me

that the CPR instructor

was trying to break me


and a colleague leaned over

and whispered to me

I bet he’s a Trump supporter

made me wonder

if my dad was too --

he was known for fear mongering

but would always stop to save

a turtle in the road

even if it made him late

for where he had to go --


And when the instructor spoke

about CPR for kids

he sombered again, said

it's scary

to have to save children

and I could tell

he’d been affected

and later he mentioned

a two-year-old

who didn’t make it.


-- In my house, when I was a kid,

there was a picture of my dad

carrying a body, a child— dead

from a house fire,

his small gray face

tipped backwards

over my father’s arm

my young father

maybe not even my father

yet, his face dark with smoke

and he carried that child

as if his own and I know

he would have saved me

from anything

but himself --










published in subTerrain