Washed Out

Michael Gessner

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My father stands in boxers,
back to the sea.  He holds
my hand.  I am five.  We are a pair
on this Florida beach.  We’ve remained
for years this way in black and white.

At forty-seven he looks ‘washed out,’
a phrase I learned from him,
used by a generation without pigment
spray, or tanning booths, to explain
the pallor of the face in age,
its waxiness from lack of circulation,
its corollaries in cotton fabrics hung
too long in the sun,
or what hurricanes do to ports,
and the conch on the beach
bleached of color.

He was no longer ‘in the pink,’
as his childhood chums would say
of each other when flushed
with health and expectation,
but not washed up, either,
not like the bloated things
that bellied-up and were pushed
away by tides, the undesirable
forms on the sand we stepped around.

Still we are here,
squinting against the sun,
still casting shadows. 
In a few years I learned another phrase,
‘Life is cheap,’ he’d say,
Odd, for one who held it so near.                                                                           


About the Author

  • Photo of Daniel Becker My poems have been included in the American Literary Review, The Journal of The American Medical Association,(JAMA,)* Oxford Magazine, Pacific Review, Poem, Sycamore Review, Wallace Stevens Journal and others.  (A complete list may be viewed at www.michaelgessner.com.)  My most recent collection is Beast Book, (Blazevox, 2010,) and my latest review is "Imagining Poe" in the spring (2011,) issue of The Edgar Allan Poe Review. 






  • Published: December 12, 2011