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Our father is fourteen in this story
so we must imagine him young and slim
and short-shorted,
bobbing on his toes, the quiver
of his racquet like the quiver
of a cat’s tail.
We’ve seen our father play before,
sitting courtside with our action figures
and paper dolls,
deadened to the minor explosions
of balls striking asphalt.
But we are surprised now by the
animal sharpness
in his face, his eyes moving the tight loop
from court to net to opponent
and back again.
And it occurs to us
that we haven’t occurred to him.
Our father is pre-marital,
pre-paternal –
his world blazes between these
white-painted lines.  

But soon we look where our father won’t:
To the stands where
our boy-faced uncles jeer
beside our grandmother, thin and erect
where we know her
soft and stooped.
She raises a hand to the metallic crest of
her hair and calls out,
David! What’s the score!
And it is understandable to us
that he pretends not hear.
That his shoulders twitch once – as if her voice
had landed there,
a leaf or a small stone –
and then roll forward again
in preparation.

In another story, our father is fifty-two,
stocky and dad-like
in his yellow-nosed socks,
which sometimes trace hardwood loops
in the floor,
but today lay flat and broad beneath
his phone holding hand.
It was there yesterday, Mother, he says
with the patience
we recognize
from when we were children, but now
it is a parent he parents;
our grandmother’s daily call
for lost things:
jewelry, watches,
houses and husbands.
I’ve been robbed! she yells,
her voice crinkly with phone distortion,
jagged with anger.

In the other story, our father wins the game.
We imagine him on the court,
racquet upraised,
exhaustion sharpening the triumph
in his face:
He is going to Nationals.
We have known moments like these –
our lives still narrow enough to be eclipsed
or obliterated
in a single swell of joy,
but we’ve never seen in our father
such a dazzle of possibility:
The chance to play those who will become
tennis pros
and household names.
The chance to become himself
these things.

But he is not those things
as he talks to his mother in the other story
which is not really a story
but the present.
I’ll help you find it tomorrow, he says,
and we imagine our grandmother
wandering her apartment
like a forest
she’s just woken within.
We can’t imagine she remembers
the first story or, especially
its ending:
Turning to her son on the car ride back,
from the game he won,
grim with decision
and with a hardness that seems
to us, impossible,
for such a small defiance –
for just a twitch of his shoulders.

But still, it seems to us a sort of forgiveness
or a sort of grace
for our father to stand and swallow
his mother’s delusions,
his mother’s anger,
while somewhere back in time
he sits, fourteen years old, holding
his victory
like a dead bird in his hands.
He didn’t go to Nationals.
Instead he went to college, law school,
met our mother,
had a child, then children,
who ask other family members for the stories
our father won’t tell.
And it is a new, terrifying thing for us
to love our father in this way.
A more complete way:
We yearn now to pull his mother’s voice
from his ears, to take her into ours,
and to hold her there
for as long as he needs.
Thank you everyone for your kind words! I've been out of the country for a while, and this was a lovely surprise to come home to.
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Daily Deviation

Given 2014-07-07
Stories about our father by cowcreamer leaps around in time and tone and pirouettes on a theme of maturity and memory. A truly excellent poem; the suggester rightly calls it "poignant." ( Suggested by Concora and Featured by ShadowedAcolyte )
IvanRadev Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2014  Professional General Artist
This is a really well done poem! And on a personal note, it's just like what happened to my father at that age - he was drafted to play football as a pro but his father rejected the proposal and instead sent him to learn architecture where he met my mother :)
joycefung Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2014  Student Digital Artist
renders in flesh your father at once aged and young.
touching tale, perfectly executed.
thank you for your writing :heart:
camelopardalisinblue Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This is absolutely exquisite. Thank you for sharing this and congratulations on your DD.
Jasemana Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2014   Writer
I enjoyed reading this very much. 
Thank you.
EndlessExcel Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2014
Simple, elegant, and surprisingly easy to read with all the jumping back and forth between time. I really like the subtle ways you let us know whether we're in the present or past. I only got two words I really want to say to you: beautifully poetic.
Steelbright Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014
Wow this is beautiful. It's so succinct and the descriptions are all very taut and just right. 
Squad1rox Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014
Good poem! Reminds me of my dad a bit.
Enmo-san Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014  Student Digital Artist
This is beautifully written and brings back memories   Love 
Mercury-the-Queen Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014
This is so wonderful. It reminds me of my mother and her life growing up...
WebbyToes Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
Very interesting. Makes me think about my own dad a little.
rsbohn Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014
Beautiful and unusual, and I could imagine it being read aloud (which you totally should!).
quee-n Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist

this is beautiful <3
very well deserved DD <3
ADimestorePoet Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Absolutely stunning. A true work of art.  I couldn't read it all in one sitting, because it reminded me of someone I have lost, but that made it all the more memorable. Thank you for this :heart:
J-ko Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014
I started reading and immediately got a mental picture of both past and present despite skipping around in time. I enjoyed it a lot, thank you for sharing!
kotacat Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014
I love how eloquently this is written, it's very well-executed. 
Avvoula Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014
Wow, this really deserves the DD! I couldn't stop reading until I reached the end, and I would gladly read another twenty pages of this storie. The way you change from past to present and back again is really fascinating!
Amazing work :aww:
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Submitted on
June 23, 2014


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