Monday, October 18, 2010

one in a sequence of poems for my Daddy

Hands rough from carrying carburetors’ upstairs and down
A flannel shirt , ripped at the sides
Your face is the most perfect face in the world
Because it is mine
Looking back at me
An expression only we know
Your body mends itself
In dramatic ways
Once, in the garage you dropped an engine
On your chest
Tucked underneath
You broke some ribs
And you had black-purple bruises
Up and down your rib cage
You were my hero
Once I scared the living shit out of you
(That’s a lie)
I lived to scare the living shit out of you
You weren’t scared of anyone, you said once
You were good enough at Tai Chi to create
The force in your hands
You could feel it
It was like static you said
But you were scared of me
Your nineteen-year old daughter
Hugging turns—watching the car ricochet
Around tight bends like a bullet, like a nervous butterfly
You couldn’t speak to my eyes
I couldn’t see then—that your face was mine
I could barricade my heart like there was a world war
And you were the enemy
But you were never an enemy to me
You’d look into my steel face
Your eyes glossy, trying to be stone instead of water
You told me I was going to kill myself
And you blamed yourself
Because I lived in a world of steel train
And cocaine…I lived in the back room of a strip club’
Sometimes I bled from unknown cuts
Sometimes you said it was better then
To forget I ever existed
Your voice hoarse from Fordham to Pelham Parkway
From the days you lived downstairs from David Peel
And worked in a garage owned by the Italian mob
And petted the kind of dogs that rip a man’s flesh from head to toenail
You fed them steak and smiled
People could always see the kindness behind your eyes
Even though you were rough and tattered on the outside
You never walked out on me
Even when my mother bit the color out from under your cheeks
And you were pallid white and a little
Too tired to try and figure out the algebraic equation
Of a broken family
You put me together
Let me blow my nose on the sleeve of your corduroy shirt
I knew then that you loved me like no one else ever would
My father---the best part of me
When you called the other day you said
You were proud—that I made it out
Of the hole I had been living in
Learned to be an actual human
You said I was okay now…
You didn’t have to worry anymore
You weren’t scared of me
And I felt suddenly brave
But still terrified to be without you
The love that sits in the back of my solarplexis
When nothing else is there
The thing that wakes me up
Tells me to say my prayers
And never touch another drop
Of drizzling Heineken
And I won’t

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