Poem 19

From the other side of the dad fence.

Don’t look at me like that

Like a dog who shrinks away

Terrified at the broken bond

Too timid now to leave if the leash lets loose


Don’t look at me like that

I am trying, but my heart is dammed

against an onslaught of unnamable emotions 

If I let one in the whole thing bursts, and son


I never learned to swim


I don’t know how to be a father


Where have all our words brought us?


I don’t know how to love the way that birds love when they push their children from nests 

and their children fly


I don’t know how to pull the best from you without 

turning you into the worst of me

I am afraid you have absorbed the worst of me already


I am afraid


When I first heard you cry I started crying too

Then I was laughing – or both were the same

It all rushed in at once and carried reason away

The river never ceded 

Everything is still afloat

Or submerged

Or both in turn


I don’t know how to be a son


I am afraid that we all fail


Know that all I want for you is 

to look into the mirror and not feel shame