Hammers #4

Watching Daddy Die

Something weighs heavy on the man
Lulled to sleep deep in the recliner.
Something has cut his taut line
And slashes age across his face
Faster than I’ve a mind to see.
And something makes me wonder
Why death deals a winning hand
The shouts foul play across the table.
I could say I’ve seen for years
His lively eyes grow slowly dim,
His love of hunting birds at dawn
Turned to birdseed across the yard,
Or simple tasks become frustrating
Like hands shaking through a shave.
But I have to question who this is,
And wonder where daddy has gone.
To be sure, I know it’s my father
Who’s grateful that I’m mustached
And not to be mistaken for a woman,
Who says ‘hurry home for Christmas
I want to meet my grandson,’
Who calls to tell me once again
My son is the prettiest baby he’s seen
And he’s proud of the father I am.
But who is the old man silent behind me
So nearly a shadow in the back of my mind,
So resigned to the speed of his flight?
Who is sitting weary on the carpet
Staring absently over my shoulder,
Curious to see how I tend a fire
Like my father taught me years ago?
And here it is that mother reminds me
Of the many years I’ve spent away,
And asks me to move my family home.
We don’t know how long he has,
Her eyes appeal to the son in me.
But they are Tulsa, and I am Chicago,
And it’s far from boredom to adventure.
But it’s not just that exactly,
My life has seen enough of both.
It’s more that…
I don’t have the heart to tell her
I’m afraid to watch mama cry,
I’m not strong enough to watch daddy die.


Copyright 1991 by Jeffrey Spahr-Summers.