'Oil & Steel'

Henri Cole

Poet Henri Cole's latest collection is Blackbird and Wolf. Susan Unterberg hide caption

itoggle caption Susan Unterberg

"Oil & Steel" appears in Henri Cole's latest collection of poems, Blackbird and Wolf. In this sixth collection of poetry, the Virginia-based poet deepens his excavations of autobiography and memory.

To mark National Poetry Month, NPR.org is featuring a series of newly published works selected by the Academy of American Poets. Learn more about this and other titles at the academy's New Spring Books list.

"Oil & Steel"

Henri Cole

My father lived in a dirty dish mausoleum,

watching a portable black-and-white television,

reading the Encyclopedia Britannica,

which he preferred to Modern Fiction.

One by one, his schnauzers died of liver disease,

except the one that guarded his corpse

holding a tumbler of Bushmills.

"Dead is dead," he would say, an anti-preacher.

I took a plaid shirt from the bedroom closet

and some motor oil — my inheritance.

Once, I saw him weep in a courtroom —

neglected, needing nursing — this man who never showed me much affection but gave me a knack

for solitude, which has been mostly useful.

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Blackbird and Wolf

by Henri Cole

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