“Ode to My Father’s Failed Heart” in EROU, a new collection from Maya Phillips (poetry, ’17)

It’s okay. I, too, have failed

at the expected, have sputtered

and choked like a rusty valve

in water, have jumped into the pool

only to sink. Little engine, your flawed

machinery is nothing like love. You limp

at last call to the dance floor,

but feel no shame

in your offbeat two-step,

your eleventh-hour shuffle

in a dead man’s shoes.

There’s nothing left

but the encore, so go ahead:

relax, unravel

like a loosened knot. Overripe

fruit in his chest, you blush

with uncertainty, bruise yourself

tender; little heart, tiny treasure,

sweeten to the point of spoil.