On My Father’s 50th Birthday

    “On My Father’s 50th Birthday,” New Era, Aug. 1983, 23

    On My Father’s 50th Birthday

    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.

    Photo by Aaron Vinck

    Photo by Lynn Howlett

    Photo by Tracy Jones