Earning a Black Belt at Seventy-Two
By Fred Dale

—for Dad

He has stepped backward
into other lives. The face
of his grandfather,
secreting in over the years,
is nearly complete.

Patrick, born on that day in
Ireland, and who fast
walked to some renown,
has resurfaced in the
grandson, my father.

He, too, seeks practices
in discipline, the comfort
of the turn inward, a man
alone with his history, an
unbalanced left leg.

On some days I await that
face, doubt it will even
come—the other side
claiming the emerging
topography as its own.

This subtle remove is a
complication. What is his
intention with a black belt
at seventy-two? Is it the
degree of an artist,

a hard stare across the bow
of diminishing returns,
or the preparation for a
threadbare intersection he
still thinks might come,

a remote place where
fathers encounter sons,
each dumb to the other,
and faces return to claim