Home > 3. My Poetry & Translations, 99. Storytelling > That Place in the Thigh

That Place in the Thigh



That Place in the Thigh

(for my grandfather, Franklin)

you’ll turn the fans on, that

      first night;

in the morning, the skies

will be flat,

the leaves listless, tattered,


wandering up the hills;

      it isn’t autumn yet,

when you boil apples down in

sugar and vinegar—no, and

no new work yet, the pain fresh

and hungry—

you can’t tell the buddies, not really,

about this place, damp & ratty &

       you don’t want to know what

      your family might say, the gospel

choir downstairs notwithstanding…

and, after all, what is there to say; things happen.

   in the evening, when the

sun turns the wires to silver ladders

and burns the brick wall blowzy

and shining,

                    you’ll wonder

      about your boy, sharp as his mother,

      (no belly of clouds)

and tough,

                but for the

ineffable rage, the phone call with

the minister at your side, the frantic silence,

the wife’s dignity: “He’s out…does he

have your number?”

              there is a final thought, the world

sliding down towards absence—you must

climb the words, one by one, knowing no

   one is listening, that astray you have

   known things people will remember: that

   the floor of heaven is stone, that the man

                who lives there wears your face,

      that what we say is just what we

      say, not what the

words might—

that you will not see until you see

your face scattered

                                  and sprung,


the sound of his feet on the

stairs, the short, polite knock—

   the words will come to you

                                    then, the

trains clattering away down the block,

   your hair cropped and

   the wine cooled all night—

and his words, too, unvictorious,

   wrestled–uncontrite, limping &


   shaped, as if in bone-struggle (that

          place in the thigh)



steaming on battered brick,

                                  (heaven’s sluice)—

                                   the rain, the

long sheets of rain.


–The Rag Tree


Photo: Oak Leaves; E. Herbst; WikiCommons

  1. January 1, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Can t attach the leaves back to the tree,
    but the pattern remains the same.

    • January 2, 2011 at 10:33 am

      antiphon: you have bravely (and singularly) commented on a difficult and wrestled poem. Like Franklin and his son (but perhaps unlike Jacob), I don’t know whether I’ve won my wrestling match. RT

  2. January 2, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I admit that I might not have understand all aspects probably.
    I reacted more intuitively to a certain atmosphere.
    Sometimes one has to take a little risk!

    • January 3, 2011 at 4:30 am

      no risk, no poetry, no interpretation…thx as always for your perceptive comment! RT

  3. July 7, 2012 at 5:14 am

    This poem has a lovely flow to it and a deadly underlying feeling of complete disconnection and loneliness. Outstanding.

    • July 10, 2012 at 10:20 pm

      sue: thanks for the feedback…i tried hard to make this one turn out happy at the end, but i guess sometimes the circumstances are just what they are. eric

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