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,
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.