Our Father, #205

Our father would
hang up the phone,
click down meanly
the receiver
and start yelling
at whoever
was nearest by
about something
unrelated
to whatever
had upset him
in his last call.
He would never
hit us. It just
wasn’t in his
nature. But steam
and hoot, holler
as if he could
erupt any
minute like Mount
Vesuvius.
We townsfolk thought
we might be trapped
beneath rubble
and a pile
of molten rock
and hot lava.
So we steered clear.
Soon as his voice
began to rise
you saw children
busy themselves
behind closed doors,
in other rooms
or off to play
outside, some game
that required
hiding. Later,
when the smoke cleared,
kids would appear
like villagers.

Our father would
get an idea
to make something
out of the scraps
around us, piece
together wood
and nails, screw
this into that
to make a box
house, rustle up
a new meal
from odd ideas
or draw on walls
with a strange ink,
we’d all jumped in.
For a moment
we were cavemen
discovering
fire or flint
or the wheel.
Mom would tell us
dad used to be
an artist, writer
of some rather
fine verse, and now
he did these things
to make up for
not writing. How
could we believe
her. Our father,
a poet. Not
once did he lift
a book or jot
down an idea.
He just shifted
from super cool
tinkerer to
explosions of
sound and fury.
How could this man
be an artist?

When father would
be home alone,
we could come back
to find the rooms
spotless. An odd
change from the filth
he mired in
when we were there.
He would never
lift a finger
to clean a dish
or wash his clothes.
So what duende
came to visit
while we were out
is a riddle.
Once in a blue
moon, we would show
early and catch
him moving at
light speed, a blur
who could not say
a word until
the dishwasher
was running, clothes
were spinning in
both the washer
and the dryer,
and each toilet
had been scrubbed down.
Only then did
he even see
us. He would say
“hi” as if we
had just walked in.
No mention of
the half hour
stage performance
we just witnessed.
Simply a kiss
on our foreheads.

Our father would
sleep, take a nap
in the middle
of the day, he
would wake and lie
silent. Hours
just looking up
at the ceiling,
his eyes frozen
into nothing.
We would walk by
talking, ask him
questions, try to
snap him away
from his coma.
He would whisper
in a tenor
we never heard
outside this strange
situation.
There were moments,
many of them,
when our father
was a normal
dad. He’d tell us
to take out trash
and stop fighting
and help your mom
with the groceries.
But too many
anomalies
existed not
to mention them.
Father would sit
on the back porch
and stare into
the forest, wait
as if the woods
were going to
talk back, as if
the birds knew him.

When father would
pack the car up
for the weekend
and take us down
to the water,
he seemed at peace.
In the ocean
with his body
floating, rolling
in the waves, tide
washing over.
All remained still
in his life when
he came ashore.
A cool calmness
washed over him,
a smile donned
his boyish face.
It’s the same face
we looked into
today at his
wake. We walked by
in a long line
to pay respects
to a man who
loved us dearly.
People showed up
we never met
and confirmed what
our mom had said.
Our dad, crazy
wacky father
of ours, used to
be somewhat known
for his goofy
grin, his dancing
around, writing,
always writing,
and his temper.
Our father, who’s
art in heaven.

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Author:

A day is not done, until it's filled with words.

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