that my dad is dead – and it’s not because he hit me or worse, in fact he barely touched me at all, or ever said anything personal, though he was full of dictums (he who has the gold makes the rules) and knee-slappers (too long to fit into a poem – how he coughed shredded Kleenex into the air to signify the feathers that flew after oral sex with a hen). No – I am sad
because of his life – the handgun in the cupboard, the bloody edges of his thumbs picked raw in the dark, sitting through the night with his cigarettes and scotch, how he was only 18 when they pulled out his rotten teeth.
When I was a girl who had to pee at night, I stared at his disembodied mouth in a glass by the sink. Now, in my mind, he is 18 – tall and thin in his white T, his blue jeans – staring into the mirror, a puckered old-man wound in his Ricky Nelson face.
He never had any money when I was young, but it came when I left home and he found a way to found a company, started carrying 1,400 dollars wrapped tight beneath the under-sided zipper in the belt that held up his sagging jeans, the belt that hid beneath his beer belly full of steak filled from the bounty of beef in the new freezer in the cellar, the freezer that held the cows he butchered himself.
It was the beef that killed him. No, that’s not true. It was the scotch, the cigarettes, good lord there were so many cigarettes, the complete absence of broccoli, the way he’d always drive, unbuckled, wherever he could have walked. But I lie. I am lying to cover my own wound – the absence of sorrow that his life is done.
He was a man of few words. A man’s man. Always on the lookout, wary, angry, proud that he tamed his wild youth, staked his claim on a small suburban yard, wrangled new oil into an old mower – my sad dad, cutting it down, a cowboy in the front yard, showing the grass who’s boss.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This poem was selected from entries submitted to our Creative Challenge Series #41: Word Salad, which required that the words bolded in the text must be included. Read other Creative Challenge winners. To find out how to participate, go to Creative Challenges.