He was the sun to me. He was the sun
to us all. Each time our come-and-go Dad
came, we basked in his hereness, shrugging off
past abandonments, too young to arrive
at harsher conclusions, conclusions Mom
would reach then renege—something in his smile.
My big sister, Lyne’, had that same smile,
teeth slightly bucked, a tad gapped, still the sun
bounced off them like summertime. But not Mom’s
smile – gravity drew hard on it. Each time Dad
dashed it grew flat and stingy and arrived
on my heart inverted, always just off.
One warm afternoon as Nay Nay hopped off
the school bus, Dad and I met her surprised smile.
They hugged and twirled round and round. We arrived
home; he lit a cigarette – red as the sun
setting over Saddleback Mountain. Dad
blew smoke rings and we all laughed, even Mom.
I remember the first time I saw Mom
cry. There was this slam; I startled, threw off
the covers, and shot up. Nay Nay said, Dad
just left again. I almost cried but smiled
instead. Sneaking downstairs, I watched the sun
share gray dawn with Mom just as her sobs arrived.
I cried hard, though, that one time we arrived
at the jail to drop off Dad. He kissed Mom
and gave me and Nay Nay tight hugs; the sun
from behind him made us squint. He took off
his sunglasses, had a smoke, and left smiling –
with swagger. I never stopped missing Dad.
I can’t remember rain when I was with Dad –
only sunshine and shadows, arrivals
and departures, hugs and promises, smiles
and smoke rings, and wishing I was him. Mom
and Nay Nay, though, they remember awful
storms and thunderclaps and months without sun.
Nay Nay used to tell me, You know, Mom really loves Dad.
I knew. I’d watch Mom’s face as Dad arrived – she’d send off
a smile that lingered like smoke rings in the afternoon sun.
Rose & Thorn Journal - Spring 2012