David J. Thompson

For His Pain

Bored on hot afternoons, the local bullies used to tie
my hapless father to a chair outside the church.
They poured wine in his hair, spread mustard
over his face, and pulled his ears until he cried out.
Our priest and the police came by, but they, too,
only pointed and laughed while they patted me
on the head, slipped me few coins for his pain.
At sunset, when everyone left, I’d lead my dad home
by the hand, stopping only to buy bread on the way.
He always whispered to me to leave this town as soon
as I could and never come back, but each time he did,
his voice faltered, and he squeezed my hand a little tighter
when he finished his loaf, and I offered him the rest of mine.
So now, on summer evenings when my own son unties me,
and wipes off my face and hair, we save some of the coins
for his train ticket out of town, share equally what’s left
of the money for bread, and I try my best to keep my hands
stiff and still against my sides our whole way home.


David J. Thompson is a former prep school teacher and coach. He grew up in Hyde Park, New York, and now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His interests include The Simpsons, jazz, and minor league baseball. His latest chapbook, Shake My Ashes, is available from Alien Buddha Press. A series of 1400 of his postcards is part of the permanent collection of The Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois. Please visit his photography website at ninemilephoto.com.