The Story, For Now

No father
. That’s what I told you.
By second grade, friends said
all kids have one, somewhere,

called you liar. The difference between biology
and Dad? That’s the story that grew
as you grew, like dated pencil marks

on the doorframe. Now I tell you—
I met him on a work trip.
In the morning, we circled Henry Moore’s

massive, marble women. A divorce,
said he was getting one. I said,
you should know, I’m going to have

this baby, I’m not asking you for anything.
I knew nothing of asking.
To the mound under my sweater he said,

you can always make another. This one
will ruin my life. The wife and I,
we’re trying to work things out.

I agreed to keep his secret,
on your birth certificate wrote
No Father, just xxxxxxxxx.

When you’re very young I tell this story:
a friend helped me, a woman
needs sperm to make a baby

this is true the way a story with a missing piece
can be true. By twelve, you ask
what was your friend’s name?

I forgot, I say. You hear the lie,
demand I put his picture and name
in the piano bench, inside the purple book

with mirrors on the cover. Is he good at math?
Do I have a brother?
He should’ve wanted to know me,

should’ve told his wife— aren’t you angry?
I thought I’d given you enough of a story,
but under the clapboard a vine’s been growing,

a prying wedge. I tell you now, I am angry.
For not knowing you’d long to fill in the blank
with something other than a string of x’s.

Available in the current issue of Rattle (no. 41)