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Jay Klokker: a poem

The Hug

A month after my stepson fled to Paris

and hanged himself in a public park,

I was waiting for the F train to

take me to a party in Brooklyn

where all talk of mental illness

and suicide had been banned.

Busy rehearsing small talk

and trying not to think of

Aaron's death, I didn't see who was

making the rounds of the platform

till a hand bumped my shoulder

and a big moon-faced man gazed

down at me. Ducking his head,

the man mumbled a request as

inaudible as the asides

Aaron muttered to prove he wasn't

duped by benevolence. Homeless,

he called himself when his home

was our couch, homeless, like the man

in the ripped parka booming, "Bless you,

my child!" as I filled his palm with

all the change I had, then waited for

him to walk away. The man frowned.

"Aren't you", he said, "forgetting something?"

How was I to answer? It was like

hearing Aaron ask, "What brand of poison are

you serving today?" and remembering how

once in a fury he broke down a door.

The man shook his head. Slowly.

Sadly. Disapprovingly. "Son", he said,

"did you ever know me to beat

you for no reason?" All I could think

to say was "No."

"So where is my hug?"

I didn't move, but already strong arms

were pulling me close and my cheek had thumped

the pillow of a down-padded chest.

"I'm God", the man confided. "And you –

you and Malcolm X are my sons."

How crazy, I thought, how crazy that

my muscles in that instant unclenched

and a sob caught in my throat as if

it was Aaron's craziness I held

and Aaron hugging back before

both of us let go.

Originally from the Seattle area of the US, Jay Klokker now lives ninety miles north of New York City in the small college town of New Paltz. He studied poetry writing at the University of Washington and Boston University, where he received his Masters degree. After recently retiring from a career of teaching English as a Second Language to immigrant adults, he has been concentrating on the writing of poems and speculative fiction. His poems have appeared in a number of literary journals, including Agni, The Beloit Poetry Journal, and Shark Reef.

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