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Role Model

My brother and I could not build our father

like models on the kitchen table

covered with pages of The Detroit News.

We unsnapped parts from grids

and with a pin punctured tubes of glue

we tried not to smell—but it bit the air.

We used toothpicks to bond steering wheels,

headlights, and rear-view mirrors.

We painted our cars with bright enamel,

breathed fumes from little glass bottles with black lids.

Our father smelled like cigarettes he never smoked.

Yelled the smeared lipstick was nothing.

Laughed at anyone fat in front of our sister.

But at Pontiac Lake he taught us

how to use needle-nose pliers

to work out a hook

whenever a poor fish swallowed it.


William Palmer’s poetry has appeared in Cold Mountain Review, Poetry East, Salamander, and elsewhere. He has published two chapbooks: A String of Blue Lights and Humble. He has also been interviewed for The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress. He lives in Traverse City, Michigan.


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