Papa, we shall never have peace
No, nor will we weather the storm.


I didn’t need the three o’clock moral fables of Full House
to tell me every daughter wants to be daddy’s dream girl
But you made that impossible for me
    like limboing
    only under the bar
    of my rapidly falling expectations of paternity
the result --
laying on the hard cement --
takes me back to being seven all over again:
escaped to the sidewalk,
stretched out and day dreaming
that my daddy was really
some knight in actual armour, a missionary
in some distant, infectious jungle
anything
but this image of Jack Kerouac
meets Mickey Knox:
some crazy cruel genius
who can treat a little girls' heart like a wishbone,
snapping it with the cyclical regularity of a seasonal turkey.

Papa, we shall never have peace
No, nor will we weather the storm.


When the winds of heartbreak bluster
and I’ve lost the will to duck and cover
in this sandstorm
what will be left over?
I’ll become the broken bones of a buffalo
bleached and scoured clean
calcium worn to a fine sheen
    nothing of the animal left
    there’s enough of that in you
    for us both.
Compared to the violations
backhands and dirty words of stepfathers
you could have been my gentle giant
held me up, pulled me above
cradled me within a reed
like Prometheus’ spark -- mythology only.
You, your cruelty was so much more exacting
than the dull, unhoned ache of those pains.

I know why you love your lies,
I won’t pretend I don’t.
It’s easier to say the right thing,
whatever words are weighted with strings of anticipation,
than the truth.
Your fictions were always more fascinating
but did nothing
to assuage a young girl's fear of abandonment
& my life became a film reel displaying that theme
rolling over rolling over
to start again with the same separation.

Papa, we shall never have peace
No, nor will we weather the storm.


I remember, the one time
you met the love of my life,
your nonchalance
“Glad to see he’s a good hippy boy
As if he were
As if he stood in your shoes
As if you had some say.
    and a father might, but not you
    forever more absent than present
your presence
punctuating my life every five or seven years
with an evening – dinner or a trip to the zoo --
just often enough to create memories
to underscore the subsequent years of silence.

& it turns out little girls are more like puppies
because they will come back & back & back
to seek the hand that hurts them.
I never once failed to be hopeful,
which allowed you to never fail to find
some form or avenue for betrayal.


Papa, we shall never have peace
No, nor will we weather the storm.


It took me 25 years to be honest with myself about you
& that’s still about as far as the honesty goes –
    I’m your daughter, after all
    & between my mistruths I don’t miss you
    & in the eyes of my lies I think aught of you
    & I wish
    that were true.
It turns out I'm more like sandstone than granite:
I will crumble if not handled gently
& I can only hide the evidence of erosion for so long

which means every tract you cut
through my wilderness
will not grow over
and leave no trace of your passing.
As footfalls flatten the forest floor,
from a bird’s eye view, it’s clear to see
how many times
you’ve trampled me.

Papa, we shall never have peace
No, nor will we weather the storm.

Pa*pa" (?), n. [F. papa, L. papa; cf. Gr. , , a child's word meaning father. Cf. Pope.]

1.

A child's word for father.

2.

A parish priest in the Greek Church.

Shipley.

 

© Webster 1913.

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