Finalist – 2021 James H. Nash Contest

Dad and I at the Bus Stop When it’s Six Degrees


Whenever you start thinking abstractly
and surrender to suggestive diction
that seems like it courts the Ideal
and you’re pushed away
by your own necessary defenses

tell the story of the candy wrapper blowing in the wind

by the bus stop after the AA meeting
as you watch everyone getting into their cars
because you have no pattern of philosophy
as you continually dream
and it’s only natural to zone out after
the oven breaks down
because you’ve been using it
as a space heater since autumn

and what kills you about Kapitol
is hey what would Demeter say
about this cold, this stupid syllogism,

because ever since that awful trip at Bruckner’s
you’ve been in trouble rolling deep under the Real
and have had to sit with your soda
listening to Seagraves talk about welfare

but this is about your dad, dude,
freezing at the bus stop outside the hospital
which used to house you,
not far from the house you grew up in,
the house that became a crash pad
for heroin addicts, the house that burned to the ground,
the house that would never let your mind wander.

MATTHEW FREEMAN‘s most recent works are a chapbook called Exile (2River) and a full-length collection called Ideas of Reference at Jesuit Hall (Coffeetown Press). His songs can be found on SoundCloud and he holds an MFA from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.