Poem: “Daddy”



By ten, I thought “paranoid schizophrenic” meant “father”.sad child 2
And “son” came to mean surviving.
But as I got older, there was power in saying words
That made the scar on your forehead flame red.
But sometimes I felt moments of goodness.
I was your son.

You demanded I look at you and not cry in pain as you hurt me.
When I looked, I saw nothing in your eyes;
But I had seen good, when there was no red flame.
You taught me well. I had no tears.
I was your son.

It was not your will or wish,
But me that made you tie me cruciform between the trees.
I told you you could not control me.
I stood there, at twelve, small, immobile, arms spread, defiant, free, victorious.
I was your son.

With you on top of me, crushing me,
Skinny, scrawny, breathless, I said
Almost whispering, knowing I would make you let up to ask why,
“You should kill me right now.”

And you rose and you did ask.
“Because when I grow large enough I am going to kill you.”
You stopped and I stared ‘til you turned away.
I was your son.

You threw my tiny brother against the wall.
He was crying.
You ordered me, as I went to him, not to comfort him.
It was then I knew you were dead.
I was your son.

It was then I knew you would die alone.
There was no more hurt for me; but
I saw my brothers’ tears.
I was your son.

It was not the priests, or the doctors, the lawyers,
The social workers, or the judge that took them from you.
It was me leaving you in deathly loneliness.
I was your son.

The certificate said you died of a massive heart attack and a gran mal seizure.
I thought back to when I was ten and
The first time I saved you by throwing myself in your path
To bring you down and you fell over me on the grass, no longer choking.
I was your son.

I remembered learning to turn an ignition key, move a steering wheel, and
Stretch my leg to a brake pedal ‘til the car hit the curb and you rested.
“Yes, officer, everything is OK.”
A knife handle or a stick between your gnashing teeth,
Your head jerking side to side, and you did not suffocate.
I was your son.

The certificate said you died alone.
I alone claimed your body.
I buried you in hallowed ground, remembering good,
But without a tear, holding your grandson who has
Your father’s name, your name and my name.
I was your son.

Now I pray, in a final irony, and I plead with God.
I hope they were acts of madness, and
You are a saint who needs no penitence, no forgiveness, no redemption.
I am your son.

I hope you are with Him and
You say to our Father, my Father:
“Lord, there is good in him.
My tears are for him.
He is our son.”

Copyright © Guy McClung 2015


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  • Terri K