Preemptive Elegy

John Fenlon Hogan




Metaphor frustrates me. It has no limbs or limits,

and I have no idea where it came from. I’ve learned


the way for me to tell my father I love him is a game

of HORSE, but the hardest way to love him


is to witness his shooting percentage decline year

after year—today he missed three free throws and a scowl


with each, his gelatinous arms aching in effigy.

I wonder if everything has an ache to be something


more than what it is? If this is the basis of metaphor.

But now is not the time, Father. The poem is yours.


I want you to know that I have found the principle

of mean reversion as useful to me as all


the birds and the baselines and the little critiques

you give me tenderly about my jump shot.


What haunts me is not the end of our games

soon approaching, or the pain I’ll suffer when


you’re gone. Or even the fact that I’ll get over it

and revert to myself more or less. Wide-eyed,


knock-kneed, cow-licked—banished to my

seven-year-old sense of self—there is no


metaphor for how I feel. My mind, a blunt

instrument, bangs away at the universe we were,


and are, and will become. I cannot dent it.


John Fenlon Hogan lives in Virginia. His poems have appeared or will soon appear in 32 Poems, Boston Review, Cincinnati Review, and West Branch, among other journals.