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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 9: August 2021
Prose Poem: 261 words
By Jeff Friedman

Father and Son


In the mirror I see my father’s face, his expansive dome, fleshy cheeks and nose, and rough chin. “Surprise,” he says, “I bet you didn’t expect to see me.” He flashes his clownish smile.

“Why am I seeing your face instead of my own?”

“I like to think of it as our face,” he answers.

“But your face doesn’t fit my body.”

“Our body,” he says. I lift my shirt only to see my father’s round belly, his forest of unsightly hair, a colony of brown spots and cherry bubbles. “We’re a package deal,” he says, “now that we’re the same age.”

Like him, I have pains in my feet from walking and shift from one foot to another. Like him, I’m up and down all night and sleep only a few hours at most, my eyes always red rimmed. “What did I do to deserve this?” I ask.

“Let’s just say that you had it coming,” he says. I brush my hair vigorously, though there’s not much left to brush. “You picked up that habit from me. You should really use a comb.”

I shut off the light, thinking he’ll disappear in the darkness. When I turn it back on, it’s my face in the mirror again. But I keep checking, turning the light on and off. Before I leave the bathroom, I catch another glimpse of my father’s face. In the kitchen, I complain to my wife: “My father has stolen my face. Now I look like him.” Touching my face, she laughs. “You just noticed?”

Jeff Friedman’s
Issue 9, August 2021

eighth book, The Marksman, was published in November 2020 by Carnegie Mellon University Press (publisher of five of his other collections). He is also author of Floating Tales (Plume Editions/MadHat Press, 2017). With Meg Pokrass, Friedman has co-written a collection of fabulist microfictions which is forthcoming from Pelekinesis Press in March 2022.

His poems, mini stories, and translations have appeared in A Cast-Iron Aeroplane That Can Actually Fly: Commentaries from 80 American Poets on their Prose Poetry; Agni Online; American Poetry Review; Fiction International; Flash Fiction Funny; Flash Nonfiction Funny; Hotel Amerika; Journal of Compressed Creative Arts; New England Review; Poetry; Poetry International; Smokelong Quarterly; The New Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Poets; The New Republic; The Vestal Review; and numerous other literary magazines and anthologies.

Friedman’s co-translation with Dzvinia Orlowsky of Memorials: A Selection by Polish poet Mieczyslaw Jastrun was published by Lavender Ink/Dialogos in August 2014, and the two translators were awarded a National Endowment Literature Translation Fellowship for 2016. Nati Zohar’s and Friedman’s book of translations, Two Gardens: Modern Hebrew Poems of the Bible, was published by Singing Bone Press in 2016.

Among numerous awards and prizes, Friedman has received a National Endowment Literature Translation Fellowship in 2016 and two individual Artist Grants from New Hampshire Arts Council. Two of his micro stories were recently selected for the Best Microfiction 2021 anthology.

Author’s website: www.poetjefffriedman.com

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