“Father’s Day Snapshot” by Jen Ferguson
Jenny Ferguson is a Canadian studying for her PhD at the University of South Dakota. She will admit sometimes she cries in the bath while listening to the original cast recording of Les Miserables. But she’s pretty sure that’s not the strangest thing you’ve heard today.
Ferguson tells a story in prose sentences and fragments, but she makes music, too. Listen to how the s and ch sounds repeat in “a sucking chest wound a chance,” with the ck in “sucking” providing a downbeat for the two ch’s. Or the repeating long and short a sounds in “labor, that nasty, happy pain and I’m thinking of tomatoes.” There’s rhythm, too: “Each passing November: my grief on a shelf in the cellar.” It enters the ear subtly and rises in volume with successive readings, working as a balm against the painful subject, but also as an expression of love for the departed.
The speaker of this poem is so wounded, so vulnerable that a more expressive typeface would compete with the emotion of the poem. Futura, in classic modernist fashion, is self-contained and cool. The capital I, the speaker’s proxy mark, stands with hands to its sides like a pillar. It is created in a single stroke and functions as a hedge against “breaking apart under heat.”