Our Fathers

By Lisa Bellamy

Our fathers never spoke to us of their wars.
Each morning, they girded their loins with tool belt
and slide rule, according to their appointed trades.
In the summer, as they backed out
our driveways, we ran after them. In the winter,
they left, whistling, as we slept.
They created Japanese–style goldfish ponds,
built backyard gazebos, sang barbershop harmony
and strummed the ukulele, but they refused
to call themselves makers of beauty.
They woke us at midnight to see
the Aurora Borealis, carried us out
to the rose and white light-waves streaming,
named for the goddess of dawn who brings life,
and the god of the north wind who brings death.

Our fathers grew restless. They started to pace,
walked outside to gawk at the stars.
When we asked, Can we come, they said, No.
When we asked Why, they said, Hush.
Our fathers stopped kissing our mothers.
They came home midday: red, laid-off, warned
for swearing at the foreman, said they were sick
unto death. They slammed screen doors, bedroom doors,
storage shed doors. They started to drink. They stood up
from couches, pushed dogs that nosed them, stumbled
outside, yodeling. Said they felt bigger
than the sky. They drank in bomb shelters,
at the Legion Post, watching TV. They drank
driving us to Scouts, bottles between their knees.

They drank when we begged them not to and when
we tried to ignore them. Sometimes
they slammed us against walls, sometimes
said they were sorry. One by one, they left:
in their sedans, vans, the pick-up, walking to the bus stop.
They left in the morning as we sat, silent,
at the kitchen table, eating cereal before school.
We watched them leave with their suitcases.
They left a goodbye note for us to find
after track practice. They left at night after fights.
Some stayed, but stopped talking, or faded
fast, eyes rolled back, clutching their heart.
Others left over time, from their wasting diseases.
They said they would never forget us.
Our fathers said they loved us, and we believed them.

Lisa Bellamy teaches at The Writers Studio and studies with Philip Schultz. Her poetry collection, The Northway, is forthcoming from Terrapin Books. Her chapbook, Nectar, won The Aurorean chapbook prize in 2011. Bellamy’s writing has appeared in The Southern Review, TriQuarterly, Massachusetts Review, Hotel Amerika, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and The Sun, among other publications. She received a Pushcart Prize Special Mention and a Fugue Poetry Prize. She lives in Brooklyn and the Adirondacks.

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