“On My Father’s 50th Birthday,” New Era, Aug. 1983, 23
When my father read he’d push his lips together
very tight, till they stayed that way without
a book around. I liked to ask him questions at
night when he was alone reading in the living
room, watch him take off his glasses, lock his
fingers. He always had the answer I wanted,
though not briefly.
He felt so guilty for making us
live in the same small town he grew up in
that he told me and my sisters never to
become lawyers. We promised. We knew lawyers
were nice people, but people with mouths tight
like Daddy’s, and they thought so much at lunch
that they either wore bibs or took off their ties.
He was relieved and almost 40 when my brother
was born. On John’s seventh birthday he
bought two BB guns, yet I never wondered
why he didn’t buy himself a doll on my
birthday. When I turn 19 this December
Daddy will tell me how lucky I am to still be in
college and give me something he wants himself.
I’ll thank him, tell him I’m so glad to be home
and kiss that mouth and when the streets are
quiet and it’s dark outside I will go in the living
room and ask him a question.