Patrick Roche

The Stranger

after Billy Joel

Mom says she can’t speak to me when I’m angry
that she doesn’t recognize me, and we both know
she means she recognizes me more than ever,
just as another–
a slow dance of ire kicking up dust and caking my skin or rather
the wildfire of inheritance cracking through my cheekbones
Turning into one’s father is a stubborn erosion, but
nothing fast
A measured crash of age

I carry my once-self into the bathroom to analyze the evidence
I do not startle or break the mirror,
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++nothing so dramatic
Only a fledgling wrinkle taking root

Only a hairline losing its dexterity, falling
+++++back like this man’s face
+++++could crawl up and cover my entire skull if given proper time

Only the portrait of my birthright and the sound of
+++++a man outside somewhere,
+++++whistling a song I swear I’ve heard before


Patrick Roche is a writer and dessert enthusiast from New Jersey. He has competed or been featured at multiple national and international competitions, most recently placing 3rd overall at the Individual World Poetry Slam in 2016. He has served as an ambassador for the JED Foundation, promoting the mental and emotional health of young adults and college students. His work has appeared in or been featured on Voicemail Poems, FreezeRay Press, Button Poetry, The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, MSN, UpWorthy, and his mom’s fridge.