* a poem for father’s day

Tattoo by Jose Angel Araguz

It’s a reclaiming of sorts

This washing

This warm water serenade

The prick and bump of shaven skin

Your initials bulging in black ink

My calf burning as if slapped

 

This nightly ritual of waiting

For the hair to grow back

Curled, snarled, and thick

An angry arm digging itself free

An army thrusting out of me

 

Me, your likeness

Me, your boy now a man

Now a poet needling into permanence

Your name, a scar

 

Because the man who did it

Was quiet and stern

Maybe as old as you would be now

Leaned on a cane across the room

Prepped the needle and shoved

The chair into position

With his foot

 

He said I didn’t look nervous

I could feel his face moving

Over the water of my eyes

My flesh pierced by

The feeling of a blunt, persistent union

Of skin and ink

Needle and

Me

 

I will know you one day

The shine of the lotion tells me so

The letters gleaming like the world

Under a scab

Renewed, regrow

Fresh.

(062104)

***

I wrote the above poem on back in 2004.  I had just graduated from college and was spending the month of June at the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets.  We made a trip into New York City on Father’s Day.  My first time there actually.  I was filled with all sorts of romanticized notions of the city, all of which got indulged/corrected when I did my MFA there a year later.

I had also been playing around with the idea of getting a tattoo.

See, my  mom ran away from my dad when I was 2 and he died when I was 6.  I got to see him twice in that time, once in prison.  I know 5 things for sure about him, one of them being that he had my name tattooed on his calf.  Being in the city for the first time on Father’s Day of all days seemed like enough of a sign that the time had come to get the tattoo.

That first night with it, all the new pain and sting that I had to care for put me in a quiet place.  I haven’t looked back at this poem in 8 years.  I can see the breaking of skin, though, as a breaking of a silence.

***

Happy breaking!

J

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