My Father’s Hands

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Sheehan and I napping together, about 42 years ago

Family, which some of us actually manage to survive

The photo above is Sheehan and I napping together, about 42 years ago. The poem below, written 20 years ago, is for my father, who, when I was a kid myself, I wished would die in a car wreck before getting home to tell me what a fuck-up I was. Then I became a dad, to Sheehan pictured here in his first year of life, before we knew he’d be profoundly disabled. Happy 43rd b-day Sheehan, and RIP Dad.

My Father’s Hands

The house where I grew up
Sometimes became
My father’s hands —
I remember him, angry,
Staring at me
Those hands with braided fingers
Wrapped around themselves
Cold and hard.

His nails were smooth as spilt milk
His flesh an unripened pear.
I remember sitting across from him, waiting
While he waited for me.
And this became proof-positive
that there is no god
I cared about pleasing,
because there is no god
at all.

Jesus Trash


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