They say the surest way to make God laugh is to tell her your plans. Remember last week, when I said I was jumping into a five-day poetry challenge? I triumphantly posted the first of what was to be five new poems written in a week, Mother's Face In My Own Mirror. Then, I got sick. Seriously sick. Hospital sick. I was down for the count for most of last week and spent much of the weekend asleep. Today is the first day I have even attempted to work. So I have created poem two for the challenge, Coming Full Circle. This one is about my dad, a complicated man from whom I have had to distance myself in every possible way. Dad is bad for my well-being and bad for my family. I am sure I have relatives who wish I would not confront these truths so publicly. I tend to think open wounds heal faster when exposed to fresh air.
Here is Coming Full Circle.
Read it below or listen to it on SoundCloud.
Coming Full Circle
by Stephanie Mesler
There are constellations I would not see and cries I would not hear,
had I not learned to live with my insides always turned out,
exposed and bleeding, open
to life and experience, to knowledge and pain and joy and fury.
You made me who I am.
Sometimes, I think that’s a good thing.
You were the daddy who built swings and filled my sandbox.
You tied my rubber raft with rope so I could not drift into waters above my head.
You made a chicken wire playpen, so that I could crawl on lush bluegrass
while you read the world’s great books, sometimes out loud,
and sang me opera and spirituals and talked with passersby.
You were the unpredictable dad, who sometimes went awol,
who was quick to rage, impossible to please.
Sometimes, you hit. Often, you bullied.
You were competitive for me
and against me.
You were the father everyone envied
because I did not tell them what might have made you look less than…
I tried to be one of your accomplishments
It was never enough.
You did not love
the child who could not be molded in your image
I tried to get it right,
dated men like you,
men you mostly hated.
You saw yourself in them and could not look in the mirror without flinching.
That is, I suppose, a sign of...something.
Through the decades of my life
I have fallen again and again into the trap of happy memory,
allowed the danger of relationship to be outweighed by shimmering, gooey, optimism.
Last time ‘round, I said I was done, and I am.
Now, we do not speak --
having hit a wall too high for me to climb again
(I’m not young anymore myself, you know)
I slammed a door shut behind me so that you can never again walk through uninvited.
When I think of you, it is mostly in shades of yellow and blue, happy thoughts that tell half the tale:
the Christmas of 100 books,
singing together from a balcony,
watching live ballet,
the way you cooked white fish in red sauce when Mom was away,
how we made up fantastic stories about complete strangers to pass the time on long trips.
I remember the charm and humor, the intellect and art.
There are dreams I would not have,
stories I could not tell,
songs I could not sing,
had it not been you Mother chose, though no one will ever know why.
You will be dead soon.
For better or for worse, that will bring relief.
Then, I will dispel the somber murk of darker memory and
create a vast and glowing void to be refilled with more of what made you Daddy.
In my fantasy, it is safe to be your child,
safe to open the door one last time before it’s too late,
safe to say goodbye, face to face.
I will one day write that scene, though it will never happen.
I will give myself the gift of coming full circle.
"Coming Full Circle" is (c) 2015 Stephanie Mesler. All rights reserved by Stephanie Mesler. No portion of this poem may be performed or copied in any form without express consent from the poet.