This week’s poem weaves together a father’s past and a son’s possible future through negation – the word “not” appears eight times in the first 11 couplets of the poem. By refusing to look into the future, it also looks into the future, then it ends with a lovely and lonely series of images.

Jeffrey Thomson is currently a professor of creative writing at the University of Maine at Farmington. His latest book, “Half/Life: New and Selected Poems,” will be published by Alice James Books in October.

Against Prognostication

By Jeffrey Thomson

I have not written about my son’s future,

not yet. How he will read and reread


the “Audubon Field Guide” and memorize each bird,

how he will wander off under dappled light


and return home in a squad car. Not because

I can’t imagine the way he will carefully


hold his hand above his heart after he has unfurled

the skin from his meaty thumb, or how he will rip apart


a frog hind legs to jaw and how he will feel after.

I have not talked about the day he will wrap


his friend’s car around a tree and somehow

walk away, leaving the scene limping


home to sleep in bloody sheets.

Not out of fear, though this genealogy hints at it.


This reticence is caution not reprimand –

what can he learn, anyway, from such a history?


That day will still come when he opens his palm

above a flame and smells himself burning.


Perhaps, by then his father will be brave enough

to let him have his own life, but I will not say,


“be comforted,” for comfort comes at a price.

And I will not talk about what comes next:


a girl, a kiss, a field of grass. His thin heart

tearing as she leaves. That part of the story


is all anyone wants, denouement

and then the singing, operatic camerawork


pulling back to reveal his loneliness in the grass,

blue herons stalking through a salt marsh at sunset,


ten glaucous gulls and a black back on the gables

of the paintworks riding out the storm.


Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is a poet who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2004 Jeffrey Thomson. It appeared originally in “The Country of Lost Sons” (Parlor Press, 2004) and appears here by permission of the author.For an archive of all the poems that have appeared in this column, go to

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