When My Father Says Toughen Up

it’s like the clop of the walnut
block beneath the gavel of the

judge who fits the punishment
to the crime, or like the pop of the

velveteen seedpod of the lupine
finally scattering its ordnance of

shot amongst the hollyhock,
or like the aftershock of a

Massey Ferguson engine cut off
too hot, that chuff out the muffler

that echoes off the pole barn
sharp as a whooping cough,

or like the upstart of a startled
roughed grouse thumping into

flight right beside you on a walk,
or like the hard clap on the back

you get when you choke, as if
to congratulate you. He didn’t

say it to berate you, he said it to
hike you up an inch or two, like

when he took you by the collar
when you were little to zip you

into that boiled wool jacket he
sent you out to chores with,

or like the high salute we send
soldiers to wars with.