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Today's untitled poem (about Dad)

Written today in our writing group. The prompt was: Write about a time you forgave someone for something you never thought you could forgive.

my dad lived in his car
sometimes
sometimes for months
or he lived in friends' garages
or abandoned cabins out in the woods
he didn't have an address
sometimes
we didn't know where he was
sometimes
sometimes for months
sometimes for years
he didn't have a job
sometimes
lots of times
he just worked when he had to
when he needed money
driving a semi
building a fence
doing handyman jobs at a casino
(while living on an Indian reservation
in somebody else's trailer)
he worked on trucks
sometimes
he was always very very brown
very very tan
because he so often worked manual labor jobs outside
pitching hay with his shirt off
all his tattoos showing
from when he was in the Navy
(my mom's name is on his bicep
though he seems to hate her now
because she always wants his money)

my dad thought child support was unfair
or unimportant
or something
and so he didn't send it
sometimes for months
sometimes for years
pretty much only when mom held us hostage:
"You can only see them if you send a check!"
that way, she could afford to buy us shoes

my dad always had ice cream in his freezer
he liked to eat steak
he always had pot
joints rolled at the kitchen table
hashish in little cubes
he always had the food he liked
he always had the drugs he liked
he always had plenty of beer
while we ate cans of Dinty Moore stew
that my grandpa stole from his job and gave to us
my mom got help from HUD to pay the rent
but my dad ate steak
while smoking pot
and drinking beer
and eating ice cream for dessert
in whatever lame-ass place he'd chosen to live at the time

because it was a choice
it was always a choice
my mom always had to work
not just sometimes
not just for months
not just for years
but always
she took the best job she could get
and she did what she had to do to keep it
and she stayed there
even if it wasn't fun
even if it was boring
even if she didn't feel like it
even if it was hard
sometimes
she always had to work
because she always had to feed her kids
while dad roamed around
sleeping in his car or someone's trailer or someone's garage
because he didn't feel like working

he wasn't sick
(back then)
he'd had full-time jobs
jobs where he'd acquired and used skills
but he didn't like to work
he liked to play his guitar with his buddies
while they smoked pot and drank beer together

while his kids ate stolen Dinty Moore stew

my dad was a fun guy
but he wasn't really a dad
not the way dads are supposed to be
not the way we deserved him to be
he was lazy and selfish
and he always acted like he thought he was amazing
like we should think he was amazing
and we did think he was amazing
sometimes
when he was giving us ice cream
or shooting off bottle rockets
or taking us on inner tubes down a river
or playing his guitar for us
or showing us how to find Orion in the night sky

but we didn't think he was amazing
when my mom talked to him on the phone and said,
"Where's the check?
You said you were going to send it!
I need the money!"
and we ate our Dinty Moore stew
and asked mom to buy us the new jeans all the other kids had
and she went to work every day

not just sometimes


NOTE: Okay, so I never got to the forgiving part, but my dad and I did reconcile, many years later.

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