To My Son

Jan. 20th, 2015 06:41 pm
fodschwazzle: (Sandy hole)
Dear Geoff,

                I know we haven’t gotten along in many years. I know your reasons for changing your cellphone plan, moving to New Hampshire, and breaking away from your old man’s line of work. It takes courage to make your own path. I wish you hadn’t put all of my beer in the microwave on the way out, because house fires make things more difficult, but I can understand that you were very irritated with me. In spite of everything, I want you to know that you bring honor to the Barry name. I’m proud of you, son. As your father, I am pleased with the man you’ve become.

                But it’s time for me to come clean on certain issues. Like your parentage, for example. I know it was strange, growing up with no mother and no other siblings except those your step-mother brought with her. You had to learn about puberty, cooking, and how to talk to a lady from me, and that is no small feat. We both know that your old man isn’t good with that stuff. There was a time when I thought I could close my eyes and make Nancy your real mother. Life is not that simple, Geoff. I can’t make what happened with your birth mother be something different.  It was different. You’re different.

                As you grew up, we’ve had to become acclimated to each other’s unique ways of living. I became unreasonably frustrated, for example, when you were overwhelmed by all your college applications and ate them. I realize now that that was probably the straw that broke your back. Maybe it was when, at dinner time, you’d eat an entire head of lettuce because you were tired of steak or chicken, and I’d force you to eat it anyway, and you would break down crying, and I would say “It’s like lettuce wraps,” and you would look at me with your sad eyes and stare down at your hands that couldn’t lift knives or handle forks very well. Or when, whenever we went to the hardware store (I know, it only happened twice), you would go through the potted plant section and tear open bag after bag of soil and woodchips, make a mound and then hide tools deep underneath the pile. You mean so damn much to me—I’m just tearing up, thinking of these memories.

                At the time, I couldn’t predict or understand your behavior. Now these stories make life wonderful. I hope you know that you can tell your old man’s stories too. Like that time when I couldn’t figure out why none of the shoes at the shoe store could be tied because you’d already eaten the ends of all the laces. Or that time when I brought out your cake for your 18th birthday, and the flaming candles made your nose twitch, so you bolted underneath the table until we put out the fires on the drapes and your friend Suzie. Or that time when I electrocuted myself. You can always share my dumb dad stories.

                My worst dumb dad story is about your mother. I was drunk and hanging out at the bar with my friends—all of a sudden, the prettiest woman I’ve ever met walked in.  She had coal-black eyes and a giddy smile. I was immediately impressed with how much food she could put in her mouth at once. Lord knows that I like a woman who can eat. I’m not good at describing clothing, but she had on a sexy black dress and had a hairdo I had never seen before. I was caught in the moment. I asked her if she would like to dance, and she stared at me with those eyes while her mouth twittered rapidly. She didn’t say no.

                Soon, I was in over my head. Her thin fingers wrapped around my back while we danced to Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” tucking my head against hers because something about her nose made my nose feel mighty ticklish. One thing led to another that night. Twenty-two days later, you were born. I know, it seems impossible. Hear me out. Once I woke up and saw what I had done, I had not one word of English to react, describe, scream, or cry. Neither did she. She wouldn’t leave. She just stood there in my living room, twitching her mouth and nose at me until one day I called a taxi. I had to. My father was a woodcrafter. By the end of the first week after she gave birth to you on my living room carpet after about thirty minutes of walking around in circles while making a terrible ruckus, I found that every last piece of my daddy’s custom made furniture was chewed up. She had to go.

                I’m so sorry I waited to tell you this. It would have explained so much about your growing up. If you cannot find it in yourself to forgive me, I will understand.

                Your mother was a hamster, but you will always be my son.

With deepest love,
Harry Barry

Meaning

Jan. 13th, 2015 03:28 pm
fodschwazzle: (Sandy hole)
Waiting for a shuttle
to scuttle us far
from a thick city, giant steel
waffles in the sky perching on
concrete chopsticks, smothered
in an ashen syrup of diesel
fumes. Two old women
stroll with their hands
stitched behind their backs

baskets on their arms.
They walk to trees that
leap out of the pavement
and shake them until their branches
are bare of berries.
Confused, we try it too—
the brown fruit smells like rotten
cheese. One woman says

“Gingko.”
They start to wave at their baskets,
point at us, and pretend to shake
the tree. We dance up and down
the sidewalk, kicking trunks,
grabbing stinking fruit, and
making old women grin.

Life transcends language when
the women trade butter cookies
for berries, memories
to carry home.

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