“You Know” by Paul Wilner

Paul Wilner poem You Know“I don’t know,’’ my father used to say
when I offered the conversational tic,
an adolescent affectation.
He liked to put people on the spot.
When they said they loved reading
he’d ask, “What was the last book
you read?’’ Uncomfortable silences
ensued, he rather enjoyed it.
Or if we were sitting around at
dinner and referred to him in third person,
the matriarchal duet, my mom and
sister emotionally outweighing the
two of us. I had divided loyalties
at best, anyway. “Who’s he?’’ my
dad would say, countering the
implied lack of respect, deference.
He wasn’t a martinet, or much of
a disciplinarian, though. When we first met
my in-laws, in deepest New Jersey,
he offered, “So this is suburbia.
Is there a lot of wife-swapping going on?”
The living room was an oil painting.
Forever after, he called
them the “Jewish Babbits.’’
Still, he wasn’t a jerk.
At least I don’t think so.
Smart-aleck, I guess, and not averse
to trying to get a rise, stave off boredom.
Do I know, even now, what he was really after?
I can’t say, couldn’t try. It’s complicated.
I don’t know. Neither did he. Do you?

Always get the last word.

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7 thoughts on ““You Know” by Paul Wilner

  1. He’s gone now. Son looking back, dad, was he a smart alec? Shit, I was definitely a smart alec, dad knew how to cope with me by wryly ignoring me. Funny, we’re so alike, I get it now.

    I really enjoyed it over a few readings, good work.

    1. Thanks, Josh. Indeed. Still mulling things over, he very much remains a presence in the room (which I think would please him).

  2. You brought him to life. I can see him sitting very close and seeming fascinated by an idea you were explaining. Very heady.

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