Robert Fillman

One Day My Father’s Father

showed up for an unexpected visit.
I was seven or eight, and terrified
of meeting new people. He was a drunk

with a short temper, a frustrated man
in a sagging white v-neck that hung from
his chest like a well-worn belt on a nail.

His eyes were sharp, fine-bladed pocketknives.
A carpenter by trade his body was
pared down to a whittled scrap of wood, not

some broad-shouldered force. And yet I cowered.
He sat at my mother’s kitchen table,
told me to speak when spoken to, answer

if addressed by my elders, laughed because
I looked like my father. I didn’t know
then he had beaten my dad as a kid,

later kicked him out of the house, disowned
him as a young man. That morning he swore
just a few hours with him and I'd be whipped

into shape. He rasped this under his breath
barely two inches from my face. That is
what I recall, that and how he splintered
apart when Dad’s truck rumbled up the drive.


Robert Fillman is the author of House Bird (Terrapin, 2022) and the chapbook November Weather Spell (Main Street Rag, 2019). His poems have appeared in Poetry East, Spillway, Sugar House Review, Tar River Poetry, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Fillman earned a Ph.D. in English from Lehigh University, and he currently teaches at Kutztown University. 

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