father reel, slides 1 thru 6

1, August 1998
sticky with summer boredom,
a small mop of brown hair fallen 
in my eager eyes, curled up against 
dad on the couch, home improvement 
on tv again. we watch 
as they explain a dovetail and sand 
the rich mahogany 
down for a lacquered refinish.
television sawdust and imagined woodsmell
not like the itching realness in his world.
this moment at the altar of entertainment is enough.

2, April 2000
lace itching my leg pressed against 
his, denim on his thigh and in the deep 
creases of his hand on mine
brown of sun, stained with wood 
and work, scarred from age, curls 
of black hairs resting on knuckles, dark 
against the ghostly pale of my palm 
and pink-kissed fingerprints. the clasping 
hands of a father and daughter, ignoring 
the words of a Father’s sermon,
bound in the family of now.

3, May 2003
as the accordion pulls a gleeful 
trot from the square dancers 
surrounding us, vibrant plaids gleaming 
in the peach-brown floor, ghosting 
with the reflections of happy 
folks, i follow the step a half-step 
behind, mind elsewhere,
somewhere his rough brown hands 
aren’t holding my arms,
controlling this father-daughter dance,
controlling me.

4, September 2007
he’s always been this way she says,
soft admission after another family argument,
but i loved him once,
enough to forgive the worst of flaws,
i loved him once and maybe i still do.
i hold her hand and she cries
more tears than the moment merits, bottled 
for years in this ocean now broken 
open as our currents meet, as i raise toward my waves 
of adulthood, prove myself an allied tide.
mom is not the person i hoped her to be either.

5, January 2009
popcorn popped over a movie 
i haven’t seen, drumming out 
my frustration, ratta tat tat in a steel pan.
i pause it to static lines fuzzing 
actor’s faces. he grumps, he wanted 
to watch too, too deaf to realize 
his noise has ruined it.
no dad please go, and he does 
in rare silence, salt-and-butter 
trailing after him
like a complaint.

6, March 2011
shelves and wood and sawdust,
orange extension cord the umbilical
to the pull-down attic stairs,
now the doorway to this hovel,
cluttered and covered with books
on sailing and pirates, railroads and wars.
yearning for this great outside but
quicksand rooted to this place,
his only friend the whiskey 
pulling him under.
we don’t try to reel him back anymore.

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