Tying a Tie

I must be twelve or so. We face the bathroom mirror,
me in starched white shirt, trying not to squirm,
faint frown on my face. He in sleeveless tee,
his chest hair abundant, still dark, the last dots

of shaving soap on his chin. He calls the knot a Windsor,
holds my hands holding the long end on the left,
short end on the right, flipping long over short,
looped around, poked up and over the top

tucked in, pulled down, the triangle tightened
with thumb and forefinger—all simple, deft,
impossible to replicate. He’s not a sad man yet.
I’m in training for the world, for being a man like him,

sad only when I study him in the mirror,
girding for another day at the appliance store,
his hands on the shoulders of his smaller self,
prepping me first so I can see how it’s done,

how to tie the tie in a way that allows me to breathe,
to not fear the squeeze of being choked.
I will, just as he has, come to live with it.
And so I have, now that he’s gone, come to live

with it, to tie my own tie, to accept the discomfort
just as he did, whose reasons for sorrow were many,
to love again the appliance salesman who turns me
to face him as he adjusts the knot at my throat.