Two Poems by Cecil Sayre

Trimming My Father’s Toenails

Once a week I trim my father’s toenails
because he has reached an age he can no longer do it himself.

I carry the white tub to his chair
and he soaks his feet for several minutes before we begin.

It is strange holding another man’s foot in my hand.
When my son was a baby, I trimmed his nails,

but that was different, though the same,
part of my son’s growing debt to me,

similar to what I now owe my father
and never will be able to repay.

We change diapers and wash dirt from faces,
tutor how to make a fist and then how to hold a hand,

acts we pass from father to son
like a worn quarter that will never fully reveal its worth,

like the wrinkled twenty he will palm me despite my protests
when we are finished, another obligation, a furtherance of my debt.

My father pulls his foot half way to his lap
and runs a finger over the edge of a nail,

then compliments my work as he returns his foot to my hand
and these duties of love that call upon us to care for another.


Let Him Hold Us

Why must I bathe
a 22 year old man? 

Because he is my son
and the water fire,
or some such thing
he cannot explain.

I must remind myself
his mind circles like a race car,
the world a whirl of images
ripping across the windows,

I must remind myself
I too have crazy thoughts,
the idea to disappear us
into the approaching semi,

must worry the moment
the wrong thought falls
too heavily on my hands,
must worry the moment 

I must fight him
into the shower,
fight him
into being clean,

wash him
with one hand,
lean on him
with the other,

let him hold us
like a falling wall.

Cecil Sayre’s work has appeared in Naugatuck River Review, Main Street Rag, and Slipstream.