Colin Bailes


My father teaches me hammer-ons
in the bedroom I slept in as a boy.

He plays Townes Van Zandt, sings
you weren’t your mama’s only boy,

but her favorite one it seems.
Hunched in a chair, hugging

the walnut dreadnaught,
I grip my grandfather’s Gibson—

the one he played at the Grand Ole Opry.
My fingers curled around the neck,

knuckles white, sweating
all over the strings,

I can’t get the timing right. I know
this guitar will one day be mine;

the others will go to my brothers—
but tonight, we’re alone.

Later, in the living room,
he puts Harvest on the turntable,

his feet up in the recliner,
starts humming along to “Old Man.”

I watch the golden glow
of the whiskey under lamplight

as he brings the glass to his lips.
I watch his hands—

sun-spotted already—
and they’re my grandfather’s hands.

And I can’t stop thinking
about my hands, how they look like his.

Colin Bailes lives in Richmond, Virginia, where he studies in the MFA program at Virginia Commonwealth University. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Missouri Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Sugar House Review, and Whiskey Island, among others. He is originally from Florida.