The Northern Lights

The Northern Lights

I never took your last breath;

you never saw my first.

So when I was young

I invented fathers

to take your place,

television dads;

doting dispensers of wisdom

smelling of aftershave

and martinis.

I refused to learn to ride a bike,

certain you’d come along eventually

and teach me how.

Other times you shadowed me,

unable to reveal yourself

due to secret government work

but you’d save me in some moment of peril

at the last second,

only to vanish again.

By high school

Norman Rockwell was the cruelest man I knew with all his paintings of normal.

And I hated everyone

who went on about how stupid their father was.

“Try not having one,” I’d think.

Finally when I was sixty

I bought an old truck

and drove deep into Canada

where I knew you last were.

It broke down twice

but, even though I could never fix

my bad marriages, I could fix trucks.

I was not ready

for the aurora

to backlight the cemetery

where I stumbled around

and found your untended stone.

I was three beers into my night

and about to read a letter I wrote to you

where every sentence began with “Why”

when something in me just let go

and I quietly whispered

“Thank you, Dad”

and turned back to leave it all behind.  




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