Ode to My Father

A smart ass. Too smart,
he skipped two grades and stepped into
Cornell at 16. Six years of vet school in three.

He still earned wages at Egan’s meat market,
drinking deep at The Palms.

He bought me Lincoln Logs
and New American Plastic Bricks-
for him to play with.
He built homes and doll beds, too.
for my Ginny Dolls,
and fuzzy kittens.

Son-of-a •bitch.
Don’t tell your mother.

Forbidden words constructed.
The air, blue.

Words to popular songs poorly kept:
“Wake Up Little Susie”, “The Wabash Cannonball”.
“And you can tell your friend there with you, he’ll have
to go”.

He fed our boxer beer.
Radio never exactly found a station
we could clearly hear.
13 broken coffee pots in the cellar he swore
he’d fix.

Often gone to dead-stop disease.
Not all were pleased.
A farmer met him in the drive with a shotgun.
Harsh words for a Government Man,
but Daddy talked him down.
The stranger shouldered his
shot gun and they soon began
to be friends.

Coffee, Lucky Strikes, beer, martinis.
Preferred the barber and the gravedigger to
academics. Earned several degrees
with no degrees of patience
for those who
wore theirs with pride.

He never bought into any of my boyfriends,
They all want the same thing.

-Listen, Missy, it’s my way or the highway, by God.
-No sassing.
-One of us is going to end up crying.

He broke my nose.
Wrecked my nose with his wedding ring.
Six months of nosebleeds.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs—
an apology.
Not one word said.
Wound never healed.
We, both violently stubborn.

Too young for WWII,
too old for Korea.
Viet Nam parted us.
But war sat well with him.

Then Kent State happened.
Home for the weekend,
his world shaken. His words weak.
Shocked, he could barely speak.
They shot kids!

I graduated, got into grad school,
and a home out of wedlock.
Daddy abandoned me for years.
Absent at my wedding, my mother
cried, but stayed by his side.
Some wounds never heal.

He, the complicated cause of me.
Never, ever easy.
Too similar or simply opposites.

Published in The Blue Mountain Review, May 2023.