He worked nights, leaving as we climbed
the tall narrow staircase to our shared room,
up into the summer heat, the steel fan
in the hallway window
pulling cool, leafy breezes
from our waving trees.
We heard the kitchen screen-door
slap shut, the Pontiac roaring to life,
and watched as slowly he backed down
the dark driveway, and was gone.
And gladly we glided through misty dreams,
flying over tree-tops, baseball games
and cool swimming pools,
when finally the robin’s enthusiasm
and the fresh morning sun
flashing through green leaves
woke us as we heard the car stop
and Dad call cheerfully, “I’m home!”
The air already scented with bacon and coffee,
we flew down the groaning stairs,
two steps at a bound,
and eagerly started another golden
One winter day I did something wrong, and
he got angry and drew his worn leather belt
From the loops of his grey, stained work trousers
To teach me a lesson.
Terrified, I ran upstairs to the big closet
and trembled behind coats and sweaters,
as heavily he came up the steps,
righteous anger ringing in his voice,
tears flowing down my cheeks;
when my big brother, teenage and strong,
called defiance to him and drew him down
into the back yard to fight him
and save me, angered by his
memory of so many other beatings,
determined to stop it now!
But facing his own father
he could not fight back, and
weeping, I watched my dad
pummel my brother’s defenseless face,
far worse than any beating
I would have gotten.
From kitchen window,
I screamed to them both
That was when my father saw,
in the kitchen window’s glare
his own father’s angry eyes,
and felt his father’s fists
landing hard on his own face,
and he stopped and
embraced my brother.
Seven years after my father died
my first child, my son, was born in spring,
and in the gleaming, sterile room
I first held him in my arms
as, with his impossibly wide, blue eyes
he calmy gazed right into my raw soul,
and I felt in a sudden rush of warmth,
a timeless love
and at last discovered
the reason for my life.
It was then
I understood my father.
In my son’s face I saw my own
and felt my father’s eyes gazing
in warm wonder on me
and I glowed with
unconditional love for my son.
(30 Jan 2011)