The ‘F’ Word

Waiting in line with my children at the market,

A woman cradles a phone against her ear and

Pronounces alto voce the word that daily fills

The air like jagged hail or a plague of frogs.

In this age of loud voices only the buzz saw

Of vulgarity is audible—softer words are lost.

When my mother would burn herself on the range

She hissed “darn” or, in her black moods, “drat,”

And even then she apologized, warning us

Against cheap talk and reminding us that words

Are gifts that we give to one another.

My father said “damn” each Thanksgiving,

When he would burn the turkey,

Otherwise he was silent, knowing, I suppose

In the way that he knew that words are betrayals.

In my own dark moments, I too say nothing,

Pouring into the silence my hopes and curses alike.

To the woman on line I mouthed a quiet “please”

To which she says, unsmiling, that I should fuck myself.



On the social page each Sunday I scan the faces of the long-married.

Men with thick hair and wide lapels, with, I imagine, cigarette packs

In the starched pockets of their shirts, their new brides holding lilies

Or roses, wearing crosses on their thin necks, smiling into the future.

Sailors, soldiers—sixty years ago was the War—brides wooed on liberty,

Hasty weddings before shipping out, a way, I suppose, of betting on living;

As they have, see, here they are now, thicker, with tired eyes, as if this

Ancient face were a mask placed over the young and hopeful one,

As if the years hadn’t passed, the nights spent arguing or making love,

Pacing outside hospital rooms or sitting bored in church, taking long

Walks on empty beaches, remembering or trying to forget, growing

Apart from one another, growing apart, finally, from one’s self.

This moment, just now, sitting in the studio, squinting into the lights,

Pressed together, afraid—but who isn’t—of who you would become.


George Ovitt lives in Albuqueque with his family. He is an Army veteran and has worked as a cook, beer truck driver, and guitarist in a rock band. He still plays blues guitar, teaches high school, and writes short stories and poems.

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