from /The Vents/

the day my dad died my best friend and his family walked around the block 

to see if i wanted to go to a pig roast      they didn/t know     i waited in the car 

w/ the windows up      the sound of them talking to my mom on the sidewalk 

was muffled      i looked through the glass at my friend who had a sweet innocent 

look on his face      “c/mon don/t be like that” my mom said      but i didn/t move 

i knew i didn/t have to      which is another way of saying no one could make me      

/ / / /


narcolepsy is the cold blue-white peak of ashley/s personal mental health iceberg      

who knows what else lurks under the surface      her mom has tourettes and she doesn/t

know her dad      she and her sister grew up in houses filled by her mom/s bad taste

in men and the arsenal of abuse they brought w/ them      when we saw pearl jam 

at the civic center gerry boosted me up to crowd surf to the front of the stage 

and looking back through the mob pogoing in unison to “rearviewmirror” i could see

ashley/s limp body held upright by the force of the crowd pushing toward the stage      

her hung head bobbed in unison w/ the audience bouncing in time w/ the music      

gerry hovered over her to protect her the whole show but the next week she went 

weak alone behind the wheel of her grandfather/s car and drove through a fence 

across a stretch of lawn and into the waiting arms of perfectly trimmed church hedges

/ / / /


lying on the top bunk half-asleep i could hear him through the vents for years 

after the funeral      chalk it up to never seeing his body      or to social security 

checks arriving in the mail and the fact that we seemed better financially w/out him     

chalk it up to mem and pep continuing to play his lotto numbers       or to growing up 

on television shows full of fantasies and deceptions that end one season w/ a fatal 

hit-and-run and begin the next w/ the victim in the shower lathering his perfect body 

w/out a scratch or scar on it      i would hear my dad through the vents visiting 

uncle bob/s apartment under the cover of night      i would start their conversation 

spinning like a top “how/s the kids?” then the exchange would get looser and loonier 

until it wobbled to a stop when i dropped to a deeper stage of sleep      on the nights 

when he came i floated off to sleep on an ocean of murmurs      on the nights 

when he didn/t come i waited      one day i knew the small talk and nonsense 

would run dry and he would cut straight to the heart of the matter and say why


Craig Blais is the author of Moon News (2021) and About Crows (2013). Chapters from his book-length poem /The Vents/ have appeared or are forthcoming in Another Chicago Magazine, Arts & Letters, Laurel Review, The Moth, Résonance, Salamander, and South Dakota Review. He lives in Massachusetts and teaches at Anna Maria College.