Thin Fabric and an Empty Bowl by Dana Bloomfield

For Dan

I come to your country
in exile,
thin fabric and an empty bowl.
You come to my woods
in resignation,
bare trees and leaves into compost.
You wrap me against the leaving breezes
in long johns,
your old coat and trail hugging shoes.

Your uncle, my father,
is gone/crazy/homeless/missing/dead.
There’s no train of numbers on his forearm,
no Southern rope around his neck,
no chalk outline, no ransom call or suicide note.
But his place is just as vacant,
his absence incurable.

I hold out my bowl,
Oliver Twist.
Word soup: You look just like him.
We trade photographs
like baseball cards.
Into my bowl: The Missing Years.
When I offer my bowl to the waiting faces
my gratitude
spills out upon your feet.


(Previously published in Digges’ Choice and Baltimore Women’s Times.)


Dana Bloomfield is a retired preschool teacher. Her poems have appeared in Baltimore Review, Digges’ Choice, Baltimore Women’s Times, Green Revolution, and the anthology Grease and Tears.


Dan Atkins was a seminarian, social worker, polio survivor, and father of three daughters. He lived the last nineteen years of his life homeless, missing to his family. He died of a heart attack on the streets of the Mission District, L.A., at the age of fifty-three. His family learned of his passing nine years later.

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