Visitation Days

after custody is lost, you live
in small, white rooms that can’t be painted,
can’t be home. you pick up your children,
and they are silent. no number of questions
can change that. when you return them,
the car ride back is too long, too short.

at dinner, no plastic or porcelain, just paper
plates like at children’s parties. it’s not
something you can explain. you have money and time,
but still they are absent. your world
exists five to nine, tuesdays and thursdays,
set to family sitcoms, regularly scheduled revenants.

once, fatherhood wasn’t measured
by a calendar. now you only see what comes after:
second birthdays and christmases, lives remembered
in passing. your daughter once gave you
a piece of driftwood. on the desk it sits before
you, made bare and weightless in the dark.

Ethan Brightbill attends Northern Michigan University’s MFA program
for fiction. He is originally from Allentown, Pennsylvania.