Tuesday 21 July 2020

Memories of My Father

by Mary Rohrer-Dann

I don’t care if you come home crying, my dad
tells my five-year-old self. Just make sure
the other guy is crying too. The other guy
is also five, also named Mary.

My father throws me from his shoulders
into Sunshine Lake. I plunge into tea-
colored cedar water, rise to droplets
sliding like diamonds down his arms.

Draw five lines, he tells me, any which way.
Then he takes my crayon, sketches a face.
Again! I draw lines even more haphazard.
Goofy, sly, surprised faces crowd the paper.
Someday, my sisters and brother and I
will teach this game to our kids.

He loves telling about being an Army cook,
about baking a general’s favorite cake
in the heaving hold of a troopship
during a typhoon, how he had a pet monkey
on Leyte, saw village women suckling piglets
in Papua, New Guinea. Only sometimes does
he talk about how his regiment was gearing up
to invade Tokyo.
Then, Hiroshima.

Stop yelling at Mom, I shout at him.
His fury, all volume, vanishes like steam
but leaves the rest of us shaking.
I am the only one who yells back.

Long after he quits his Pall Malls and beer,
even after retiring, his baker’s smell
of flour, sugar, and butter lingers
in the lines of his hands, the back of his neck,
his bitten-to-the-quick nails.

Eighty, my dad swings a badminton
racquet at lumbering carpenter bees
that nest in the patio roof. Every
afternoon, he and the bees perform
their inelegant pas de deux.

Near the end, long past midnight, Dad and I
watch the hospital meditation channel.
Molten colors flow and bloom, transform.
I kiss him goodnight. I love you.
            Oh, yeah?

* * * * *

“Memories of My Father" is part or the author's forthcoming book of poems, Taking the Long Way Home, to be published in December 2020 by Kelsay Books.

Mary Rohrer-Dann is a writer, painter, and educator in central PA. Her book of poems, Taking the Long Way Home, will be published by Kelsay Books in December 2020.  Recent work has appeared in MacQueen’s Quinterly, Literary Yard, Literary Heist, Flash Fiction Magazine, San Antonio Review, The Drabble, and others. Two narrative poem projects, La Scaffetta and Accidents of Being, were adapted to stage by Tempest Productions, Inc. and produced in NYC; State College, PA; and Philadelphia.

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