Writing about my Father, Day 2

I have never really been estranged from my father yet there are no photos of him up anywhere in my apartment, and—until he was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year-he didn’t figure that much in my conversations. Perhaps most telling, he only started to appear in my poems last year. Here are two drafts from earlier this year. Having to come to terms with his illness has meant having to come to terms with our relationship. I’m still looking for those words.


“At the Writing Desk”

There is the visible and the invisible. For example, the father who is here and the father who isn’t. Consider the things on my writing desk: a red and white mug, a blank notebook that cost too much, a stack of business cards with no faces. Do they belong to the daughter of the visible father or the invisible father? Which father has caused this particular arrangement of pictures on the wall–the cowboy, the column of mismatched doorbells, the peonies caught in full wilt. One father can read the sound of his daughter’s fingers against her keyboard like tea leaves. He wonders–is this my invisible dauther or the daughter I’d forgotten went missing?


“Still Life with Footnote”

Clutter of plants, tall and leafy, squat and bare-limbed, window-framed against the expanse of yard treed with apples and cherries. The untilled earth waiting. Bored or excited. The throaty throttle of a machine masticating almonds into milk. The bread foreign and familiar to brown girls from certain southern countries. The living room leaks cricket and the Country music station nobody put on. Plastic table cloths are all alike; each ugly tablecloth is ugly in its own way. Hard cheese and a mango and 20 boxes of pretty teas. And no peanuts at lunch or dinner, not anymore. And not another egg, no thank you. Hot pepper and a slick of oil, the stove with its permanent hiss. Sometimes the chatter of ice cubes, sometimes the clink of bottles, the weep of liquor into a glass. And yes, the calendar, does it matter the year.

1 Here is the cancerous father. Here is his back once wing-cracked not so weary he wilts onto the table’s plastic like the yellow tulips at week’s end. Here is my father with his head in his hands at the table I have known since I was not yet 20. Here is my father hiding in plain sight. 

Posted on November 3, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Paulette, this is beautiful, moving and sad. I loved the alliteration and musicality of these lines: “The throaty throttle of a machine masticating almonds into milk. The bread foreign and familiar to brown girls from certain southern countries.” Lovely and heartbreaking.

  2. Your lyrical poems are beautiful, deep, and so heart-felt, Paulette. They move me deeply.

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