2017 for 2017, 122-193: For The Absent Father

​A good number of weeks of my life as a five year old
Were spent standing in front of you
Reciting lines from Invictus:
Out of the night that covers me
Black as pit from pole to pole
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul

Whatever grasp I had of speaking, as a child
just a little older than a toddler,
Couldn’t conquer where to put the accent on
And you told me that was fine.

You told me my loud shameless laughter was fine,
Getting scratches all over my knees 
From running and falling on the street was fine,
Trying your beer and inhaling your cigarette was fine
Not getting along with my older sister was fine – 
We would love each other beyond comprehensible reason
And it will make everything fine
— you didn’t tell me this but I discovered it soon enough

And it’s fine.

There were many things you didn’t tell me,
You just made me read a lot of books and rhyming poetry
And maybe what I knew then and needed to know
Was all that was necessary at that time. 

When I was seven and sickly,
You worked away in the big city.
I had to be taken to where you were 
To see big city doctors and hoped for healing.
We spent a few mornings frying frozen squares of cheap ham 
And singing to The Four Non-Blondes
Twenty five years of my life and still
I’m trying to get up that great big hill of hope
For a destination

I’m almost thirty now, and I’m still trying.

I didn’t realize then how far you were from us
And how much farther you’ll become

And I’ll scream from the top of my lungs
What’s going on

You missed too many of the things
Fathers shouldn’t miss in a daughter’s life
And it was fine
Because the first time I had my heart broken by a man
I ran to you first
And you offered me beer and some advice:
There will be more of this heartbreak business
And I had to teach myself to be fine.
I snickered and felt better.

Many men will come and go
And you will remain my first and the worst heartbreak of all

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed

A good number of years of my life
Were lived in your absence
And I must confess I have succumbed to the thought 
that ultimately not having you around would be fine

and this is where the conversations 
about absent parents and broken families
take a turn,
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade

Because there would be
Innumerable would haves, could haves, and should haves
That will never cease to haunt us
For a good number of years

There will be only so much we can turn to poetry 
Only enough to forgive ourselves for;

And every time I’ll have to face your grave
The hollowness will remain

With apologies to William Ernest Henley

And The Four Non-Blondes


2 thoughts on “2017 for 2017, 122-193: For The Absent Father

  1. skye says:

    this left me breathless– both in a good way and an aching way.


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