Portrait of My Father

…the son of a ragman

Half-tilt at a stack of 78’s looking for a gem
For Nina, for Dinah, for Phineas Newborn
For Monk

A coffee-induced “visit to the bȁthroom”
At 10am sharp
Or the day was lost

At 70 waking up knowing each day
Would come at the cost
Of walking into the wind
Tethered to a green tank
With wheels that almost eased
His wheezy way

Looking for Steinbeck, for Percy, for Maugham
First editions
This last born first American son of a ragman
With frayed trouser cuffs
With an “I stop at Garage Sales” bumper sticker
With another protecting “Smokers’ Rights!”

3 packs a day for 50 years
Then cold turkey

Though he never could stop
Poking with his finger
Bent like a broken lance
Looking for the missing cigarette
In the now empty pocket
Of his coffee-stained shirt

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Martin Kohn is associate professor emeritus in the department of medicine, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University. He cofounded, with Carol Donley, the Center for Literature and Medicine at Hiram College. His poetry has appeared in numerous print and electronic journals.

About the Poem

“The notice of acceptance of this poem came a few weeks after my father’s twenty-fourth Yahrzeit (annual remembrance on the date of his death). I’m happy that he will now also rest in the virtual space of Pulse, near (if that’s possible virtually) his later-life love, Helen, whom I did my best to honor with the poem Aperture.”


5 thoughts on “Portrait of My Father”

    1. thanks for your kind words Margaret….I tried to connect the ‘half-tilt’ at the beginning with the ‘broken lance’ at the end…. mk

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Call for Entries​

Pulse Writing Contest​​

"On Being Different"