Taylor Mali

black and white boy child childhood
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The Father Speaking Through My Son

for A.M.

My toddler son looks up at me and says,
as I have many times to him, You are my son!
His palm pressed against his chest to show
his sincerity—again, I guess, just like me.

No, you are my son, I say as I scoop him up
and lay him gently on his bed. He frowns,
and something in how he cocks his head says
he’s thinking, But that’s exactly what I said!

I give him a kiss and consider, while turning out
the light, how he might be right and his words true.
As if by some magic, at least for tonight,
the father speaking through my son is you.

“The Father Speaking Through My Son” from Late Father & Other Poems (Quercus Review Press 2018). Reprinted by permission of the author.

Taylor Mali is the author most recently of The Whetting Stone (Rattle 2017), a “life-affirmingly dark” look at the death of his first wife. He is also the author of Bouquet of Red Flags (Write Bloody Books 2014), What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World (Putnam 2012) as well as two other books of poetry, The Last Time As We Are (Write Bloody Books 2009) and What Learning Leaves (Hanover 2002). He received a New York Foundation for the Arts Grant in 2001 to develop Teacher! Teacher! a one-man show about poetry, teaching, and math which won the jury prize for best solo performance at the 2001 Comedy Arts Festival. He’s also a TED “Best of the Web” speaker and former president of Poetry Slam, Inc., the non-profit organization that oversees all poetry slams in North America. Taylor Mali makes his living entirely as a spoken-word and voiceover artist these days, traveling around the country performing and teaching workshops. https://taylormali.com/about/biography/