The Grammar of Parenting

for Will & Howard

 *     *     *

Walking Lower Wacker in Chicago,
we debate how strictly vegan you’ll raise your son
as snow melts and fills the shoes

we all, January ill-equipped, have worn
here. Will’s yellow sneakers, Howard’s loafers,
my bright green Adidas. You will raise,

your son, the one in future perfect
on this cold, but too-sunny Thursday before
the adoption agency has matched

you with the boy from the Rust Belt.
The one you’ll take far, to South Carolina,
to birthday parties at Pizza Hut

where, He won’t eat cheese pizza,
Will says. Howard retorts, I’m not sure I agree
with you there
, and straightaway, I regret

bringing up this topic, a hypothetical
question the social worker might ask two men
who eat not meat nor milk nor eggs

but kale cooked down with garlic
and cut onion, the unleavened biscuits
Will mixes at the counter in a steel bowl

as Eminem beats out from the stereo.
As Howard feeds the three, rescued dogs
and I pluck vaguely Oriental plates

from the cabinet. In the end, you decide
to give this future son the information
on factory farming and animal slaughter

as we laugh over twelve dollar tofu scrambles.
Will says, I mean, we’re not going to stop
loving him if he eats a Chicken McNugget

Like when, in the half darkness of a parking lot
after his baseball game freshman year,
you’ll embarrass him, and he’ll say

through clenched teeth—I hate you, Dad
but keep on loving you in the present tense,
all these words both useless and full.

D. Gilson HeadshotD. Gilson is the author of Crush (Punctum Books, 2014), with Will Stockton; Brit Lit (Sibling Rivalry, 2013); and Catch & Release (2012), winner of the Robin Becker Prize from Seven Kitchens Press. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry, The Indiana Review, and The Rumpus. Find D. at