When I was little and I wished to learn
to play a piano, you shot down that wish
as something that a growing boy should spurn,
because you felt that it was sissyish.
You came from where machismo was the norm,
with chauvinism of a stubborn sort,
and seemed discouraged that I didn’t conform,
and I loved books and didn’t like a sport.
Now old and playing piano, I recall
with thankfulness that near your dying bed
those past concerns weren’t pertinent at all,
and I could hear great love in what you said:
“I hope you find someone. I hope you can,
and I wouldn’t even care if they’re a man.”
Keys #2, Debra Hurd
When I was small, you shut me in a closet
for something that I did that made you mad,
and though I don’t remember what had caused it,
I’ve often seen myself as being bad,
and justly and irrevocably locked
away, deprived of heaven with the dad
who made the universe and who had talked
with threats of hell far worse than those I had.
But you outgrew the dad that you had been,
repentant parent, bettering with age,
and I disarmed a harmful fear of sin,
of God as dad who’d lock me in a rage.
The closet door was opened. I could leave it.
If told that God is love, I can believe it.
Wild Fire, Alexandra Romano
When someone came to talk to me, I froze,
while we vacationed in the ‘sunshine state’
far from my elementary school and snows,
around a hotel table where we ate.
And when my classmate left, you shook your head,
interpreting as rudeness being shy,
and turning toward my sister sternly said
of me, “Shall you kill him, or shall I?”
Years later, I remember with dismay
the life that shyness cost me in my prime
but wish that you had not talked in this way
that made me perpetrator of a crime.
A truth may need a gentle way to say it.
My shyness grew tenfold. I couldn’t slay it.
David and Goliath by Gerard Stricher
“I wish I kept the family together”
you once exclaimed with palpable remorse,
its members staying joined as by a tether
that had been snipped in your and mom’s divorce.
“Your mother couldn’t love me anymore
because I had become a monkey.”—so
you told me in a hospital before
the final illness forcing you to go.
And I said nothing, sitting at your side,
although for years I had the same wish too,
that you had not split up, but that wish died,
replaced by separate hopes for mom and you.
Water under the bridge may beckon, yet
we have to cross, above the deep regret.
Bridge Over the Life, Leonid Afremov
You never told me of the birds and bees,
just asked if I had questions. I said “No”
embarrassed of all things to do with these,
though there was much for years I wouldn’t know.
Then something natural became a shame,
an undesired urge that I suppressed,
and later still I often felt the same;
a failure to control made me depressed.
Though I don’t blame you, still I wish you had
spoken then of birds and bees, so I
might not have made them cause for being sad
but welcomed them between the blooms and sky.
What gorgeous songs the birds then might have sung.
Instead, for years, I only felt bees stung.
Bees, Karen Tarlton
When you and mom split up, I went with her,
not only physically but in my being—
moving far from who I thought you were
within my adolescent way of seeing.
While you were of the Earth, I wished to be
of unadulterated sky—a monk—
of mind unclouded by carnality
and never sink to any depths you’d sunk.
Instead, like Icarus, I flew and fell
and singed myself in grasping for the sun,
with ignorance and arrogance as well,
but there’s still hope for you and for your son:
we did and do our best with all the given
and pray our falls and failings are forgiven.
The Fall of Icarus, Ivan Gotsev
When I was twenty-two, I was confined,
committed not to love but to a ward—
as horrifying thoughts engulfed my mind,
and I became a person I abhorred.
“I never knew what that was all about”
you sadly said, yet I deemed it too late
to talk of while your suffering drowned out
my own: you neared your expiration date.
And I believed that I was fully cured
of youthful illness that assaulted me,
and didn’t know that what I had endured,
and suffer now, is Scrupulosity.
But I wish that no truth had been withheld
now that by my two arms you can’t be held.
The High Council, Wolfang Lettl, 2004
“You know now how a parent loves their kid”
you said, because I have one of my own,
as you embraced me right before death hid
your being in some dimension that’s unknown.
And love that’s sometimes hidden was in view
in your concern for me despite the illness
that in a short time would be taking you
to a place of silence and of stillness.
But when you last were sitting on the chair
in my apartment it wasn’t apparent to me,
while you were still in good health, full of care,
and that myopia has haunted memory:
for years, each night, I hugged the vacant air,
imagining you still were sitting there.
Armchair, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff
When I was young, I used a lens you bought
to magnify the planets and the moon,
so I could see details, not just a dot,
or a mockingbird sing right up-close a tune.
Yet though I saw into the depths of space,
I couldn’t see your depths of love and joy
before your final illness and embrace,
when I no longer was a fledgling boy.
But now I see what hadn’t been apparent,
your helpfulness and qualities within you,
your work as volunteer and friend and parent,
the kinds of work I hope I can continue.
Errors may have left a trail of scars,
but through the darkness we have seen the stars.
Starry Night Over The Rhone, Vincent Van Gogh
Mario A. Pita