Frontier Psychiatrist

Two Poems by Allyson Paty

Posted on: August 26, 2010


My father like every good father
has fingers sturdy as boulders.
Like boulders they make no sound.

Every morning he buttons his shirt
in the dark. He won’t take notice
if the cat spends the night hunting

and drops a cockroach at his feet.
Whenever he steps out, the hall light
catches his face. Casts it back

to my mother. A jaw line so straight
she will take him for a man who lives
by the sound of clock gears alone.

A man with no time for music, ergo empty.
Ergo he cannot be my source. And yet.
My father brought a song to my cradle.

First I had to bring him home. One: set
a chair in the hall. Two: call the elevator.
Three: wait. I called and called again

until my father like ever good father at last
returned. When the doors opened onto him
he felt like a thing  I’d drawn from a well.

What we sang was a fictional anthem
for a fictional man. One to show love
of country even as he flees. I’d say Father.

What is Edelwiess? A white flower of course.
And fuzzy. Like the cat? No, not like the cat.
Think more like the moss that covers a stone.

Or your baby sister’s head when you take it
into your hand. He dimmed the lamp and sang 

once more. So my sleep dissolved him.


Selma Erwin has been dead now
some years. Twice she touched me.

After breakfast she turned my wrist
and dropped a moth into my hand.

When I think of her skin, I don’t
think of her skin but of my hand

dressed in powder from the wing.
When my mother smells lavender

she says her name. I hear Selma
was born in a house with roses so fat

the florist came to strike up a deal.
Her father died early and her mother

walked her slowly through the garden
and then sent her from the house.

I say her eyes were yellow beryl.
My mother says aquamarine.

She was married in a house that burned.
After lunch she brought me to the chimney

which stood alone. She asked me to unclip
her hair and handed me her tortoise comb.

Allyson Paty was raised in New York City, where she continues to live. In 2009 her poems were published in Tin House as part of their New Voices series. Her poems have also appeared in the text journal A Similar but Different Quality and the website Underwater New York.

Photos: Laura G. Duncan.

2 Responses to "Two Poems by Allyson Paty"

The second piece “Afterward” ..from the wonderful & truely provocative image of legs.. to the powerful conclusion was romantic (the old definition) as all get out.
This moved me/ I’m thinking that ms. Allyson Paty is better than “deft” as a wordsmith & storyteller. I plan to investigate her work/ thanx for sharing her.

“Afterword” is the title actually

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