Portrait of Our Fathers Channeling James Dean or Marlon Brando

Everyone has such a photograph 
of their fathers in their youth—

even the ones who didn't think they
could be smooth with the ladies;

not the college jock, nor the ones
in the school yearbook described

as Most Likely to Succeed. But here
they are too, the boy from the other

side of town (like the farm in Fairmount,
just off highway 150), & the boy

people remember most for mumbling all
his words; the boy who clutched a nervous

nail file in his pocket hoping no
bully ever took a shine to him, &

the awkward one who thought he was fat.
Here's the boy who shyly gave the girl

he liked the most unlikely gift of
a ripe pineapple; & the one who drank

too much so he could work up nerve
to speak to the girl at the cash

register. Here they are, posing
for pictures too: encouraged by

the studio photographer to choose
a painted backdrop, borrow a leather

jacket to throw over one shoulder or wear
unzipped over a white crewneck T-shirt &

a pair of dirty jeans. Here they are
with their hair darkly sleek, pomped

with Three Flowers, Brylcreem, or Tancho
Tique. A cigarette dangles at the edge of

their lips or at the ends of their fingers,
while the other hand rests nonchalantly

on one hip. But no one had to coach them
for that look: broody, full of aloof &

existential longing. The kind that says
you know, I coulda been a contender.

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