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About this Poem 

"I thought I would be less interested in writing from the perspective of a son about his parents as I approached forty. I'm finding that's all I seem to think about. This older speaker seems more aware of (and more willing to talk about) the tricky spaces that exist between fathers and sons. It's also a poem about the expectations of men in culture and what failing to live up to those mean."
—Aaron Smith 

Like Him

Aaron Smith

I’m almost forty and just understanding my father 
doesn’t like me. At thirteen I quit basketball, the next year 
refused to hunt, I knew he was disappointed, but never 
thought he didn’t have to like me 
to love me. No girls. Never learned
to drive a stick. Chose the kitchen and mom
while he went to the woods with friends who had sons 
like he wanted. He tried fishing—a rod and reel 
under the tree one Christmas. Years I tried  
talking deeper, acting tougher 
when we were together. Last summer 
I went with him to buy a tractor. 
In case he needs help, Mom said. He didn’t look at me 
as he and the sales guy tied the wheels to the trailer, perfect 
boy-scout knots. Why do I sometimes wish I could be a man 
who cares about cars and football, who carries a pocketknife 
and needs it? It was January when he screamed: I’m not 
a student, don’t talk down to me! I yelled: You’re not smart enough 
to be one! I learned to fight like his father, like him, like men: 
the meanest guy wins, don't ever apologize.

Copyright © 2013 by Aaron Smith. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on October 31, 2013.

Copyright © 2013 by Aaron Smith. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on October 31, 2013.

Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith is the author of Appetite (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012).

by this poet


The afternoon light lights
the room in a smudged
sheen, a foggy-eyed glow.

The dog digs at the couch,
low-growling at the mailman.
I’m spelling words with pills

spilled consolidating bottles:
yes and try and most of happy:
Maybe I’ll empty them


With cotton candy armpits and sugary
Crevices, sweat glazing your donut skin.
Have you ever been fat, Brad?
Have you ever wanted a Snickers
More than love and lain on your bed
While the phone rang and rolled one
On your tongue, afraid to eat it, afraid
It would make your jeans too

I've been meaning to tell
you how the sky is pink
here sometimes like the roof
of a mouth that's about to chomp
down on the crooked steel teeth
of the city,

I remember the desperate 
things we did
                and that I stumble
down sidewalks listening
to the buzz of street lamps
at dusk and the

collected in

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