Tim Hatch

Across The Room

A boy gasps and cries

in Spanish

for his mother.


Metal slides on metal

as the key

lime curtain

parts for the doctor.

He gives me lavender


paste and tells me to drink.

My face freezes

in disgust

and then softens as the pain

washes away, like chalk


off a sidewalk.  I sink

back, muscles relaxing.

I feel        fragile.        Uncertain


if I’m still here by God’s grace

or dumb luck and I wonder


if maybe you felt this way.

Was it the promise

of death or your unreliable body

that left you wide eyed and afraid

to go

to sleep?


Three weeks gone

and I haven’t given you a tear.


I curl into a sideways prayer

on the gurney.  Across the room

the boy wails for his mother.

Dad Survives His Third Open-Heart Surgery

Don’t worry, Dad, you’ll be

talking again soon.  I’ve watched you

breathe through tubes so many

times, but I can’t stop looking

at you like someone I don’t quite

recognize.  When did you get


so goddamn old?  Your hair stands

wild, sparse, like a balding troll

doll in its seventies.  I want to laugh

but there are so many tubes growing

out of you.  I try counting them

but I get to your face, wonder who

you are, and lose count.  The two

largest spill out of your bed

ending in clear containers, slow


drip collections of blood and piss.

If you’d died under the knife, things

would be so easy.  You’d be

the father who could never live

down his mistakes.  I’d be the son

who didn’t learn how to forgive

in time, and everyone would understand

the burden of my guilt.  I could

be brave in the face of grief.  Live

my life.  It would be an easy


easy lie.  I used to punch

the brick wall in the alley until

I couldn’t hold a pencil.  What kind of son hates

his father like that?  What kind of man

sits next to his father’s hospital bed, sees

a lifetime of Christmas guilt and Father’s

Day backhands instead of a sick

old man on life support?  Dad, why

can’t I hold your hand and tell you

not to worry?  That this won’t last?


Greg walks in, presses his cheek

to yours, holds his phone like a mirror

says, “Don’t worry Dad, you won’t

remember this,” then leaves, nodding.  I envy

his approach to shitty memories.


Somewhere inside me there’s a slow

leak.  I know there were never enough

years to begin with, and I remember

when I threw away a prayer for you

to suffer like this every day.  I’ve wasted

so much prayer, the shame smothers

me, like a desperate hug.  No one


deserves this.  Your new scar, dried

blood and surgical thread, laced

through welts of old scars, looks like

a black worm eating its way

up your chest.  I drag my fingertips

across my own stratified scars

each one a permanent reminder

that you and I will always be

you and I, and I hope—


It’ll be alright, Dad.

Try to sleep a while.

Six-String Rising

Rouge on pale cheeks, blush

coins that somehow miss

your hollow eyes, face


emaciated, face white

like porcelain, like a doll

so white I want to draw on it, paint


your real face, not this

sunken still-life of starvation

and shame, this isn’t


you, this    empty    thing

in front of me, an abandoned

Cadillac, left to rust


in a long-forgotten wheat field I

want to see your face

again, see the smile that says


yeah, this is happening as you

play slide guitar with a burning

candle in a room of screaming


women, the smell of possibility


I want to watch you raise the dead


again, with a pick and six

strings, make them dance, John

feral things, make them


sing a three-part harmony with God, sing

a rage of life

sing a story into being, sing of life


life, goddammit

who will sing

for you?


Tim Hatch writes poetry that explores themes of abuse, fragility, and our human obligation to one another.  He earned his MFA at Cal State San Bernardino, and his poetry has appeared in East Jasmine Review, The Vehicle, Touch: The Journal of Healing, and Apeiron Review.  He teaches English at Mt. San Jacinto College, and his collection of poetry, Wild Embrace, is forthcoming from Pelekinesis Publishing Group in early 2018.