Side Gate by John Brantingham

You’re standing by the side gate of your place, waiting for your son to come home on the first day that he’s walking home from school on his own. You’re pretending to garden because you don’t want him to think you’re waiting, and it makes you wonder if your father did something like this when you were a boy, except no, you work from home, and your father did not. Maybe your mother did. It was all so long ago that you can’t remember any of it. You’re an old dad by anyone’s definition, and your parents were teenagers when they had you. It’s not like you can remember biplanes or anything, but you remember the old guy next door who had a nostalgia for them, hung up oil paintings of them in his living room, told you what it was like to fly in them. Old guys today have a nostalgia for rock and roll. You know this for a fact because you’re one of them. They go to see Donovan when he comes through. They wish that Steve Miller was still touring. They get excited about Chris Isaac. They’re grateful they held onto the audio cassettes because they don’t want to bother with streaming services. You liked that old guy who lived next door. He was pleasant for short bursts of conversations. Maybe as your boy grows up, he’ll find you pleasant for short bursts too. This is the way into love, or at least it’s yours. It’s like letting love in through the side gate. You can tell your boy about the old days that his friends’ parents never saw.


John Brantingham was Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ first poet laureate. His work has been featured in hundreds of magazines, Writers Almanac and The Best Small Fictions 2016. He has nineteen books of poetry and fiction including his latest, Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press). He teaches at Mt. San Antonio College.

Art by Gabriela Knutson


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