Father and Son
For no reason that makes sense to me, my hand
went to the shelf, to my father's old, worn
Catholic Bible, covered in dust from long years
of being ignored, lost amid a collection
of books refuting its claims on my life.
In the back pages are scribbled notes
in my father's hand -- his marriage to my mother,
my birth, his mother's death, my sister's
adoption, various moves and new houses --
all of which might as well be written in blood.
Last month marked 27 years since I watched
his boxed body roll into the furnace, spilled
his ashes over ocean waves, and this year
is the first time I have allowed myself
to have a Christmas since his heart stopped.
It's strange how our lives only make sense
in looking back. Only now do I know his death
allowed me to find my own thorny path, and
only now have I begun to miss having family,
to know others who have always known me.
So tonight I add my hand to the book,
record the deaths of my sister and mother
more than two years ago, leaving only me,
the prodigal son, who long ago discarded God
among the detritus of my crooked path.
I am not my father's son, maybe in blood, but
he would not recognize the man I am. In the days
after he died, I buried his rosary beneath an oak,
prayed that I would awaken from that nightmare,
and many years later, sitting on the cushion, I did.