Archive for June 24th, 2022

Father’s Day

[with poems by Kathy Ackerman]

On Father’s Day I drove six hours to visit Dad in the ICU.

That’s it. That’s all there is to tell. That’s everything, except maybe the phone call from a neighbor who found Dad confused and incoherent, then hearing Dad himself on speakerphone repeat the same nonsense phrase over and over. Everything except helping my suddenly-in-charge niece, talking her through gathering everything the paramedics would need when they arrived to take Dad to the ER. Except the packing, the hitting the road, the canceling of all plans except the one of getting there. The sitting beside his bed, he pale, swollen, faintly blue like something that has washed in from the sea, me beached with uncertainty, unknowing. Him opening his eyes when I speak, him answering as if from a great distance, “I feel OK.”

Everything is sitting beside Dad’s hospital bed with Linda who has come with me. The next morning discovering Linda propped up reading after my mostly sleepless night. Waving to Linda on the porch with Mom when I pull into the driveway on the afternoon Dad is discharged. Hearing Linda say, “Come away. Take a walk. Just a few minutes.” Kissing Linda goodbye as she heads home, both of us knowing I’ll be staying to take care of Dad and Mom full time for . . . how long?

What to tell? Maybe the only thing is wonder. I wonder how Dad survived. I wonder what he’ll be like as much as a week from now (I wonder if I’ll ever again think in “months from now”). I wonder what I will be like. Wonder and gratitude — I don’t wonder who’ll be waiting for me someday when I come home.

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The Men Who Are My Father

++++++++++ i

He says it was a mistake
chopping the lizard in half with the garden hoe
believing it was a scorpion. I know
he is not blind enough to blame his sight
for such an error – I know when in doubt
he defaults to kill.

++++++++++ ii

He defaults to kill, yet it wasn’t always so.
At twelve years old, he slid a chicken leg
from his plate into his pocket,
held his hand just so to hide the hole it left,
filled it with potatoes.

Later he pierced it with a three-foot hickory stick,
extended it like an offering toward the fox in labor
wanting her to have the strength it takes
to release the blood-eyed pups.

++++++++++ iii

When I ask what color was the snake
he knows I want to hear the rattle of danger
or see the copper crossbands he believes would justify
his crime, a rake this time.

++++++++++ iv

Though he is not a god he makes his choices.
Songbirds over squirrels, stray cats, bigger birds.
One attempt at trapping, then the rifle.

++++++++++ v

Tadpoles, bluegills, slippery forms
of saying yes to a child.
He helped me fill the pails
with the slow deaths of what’s too small to eat.

++++++++++ vi

What lesson did I learn from
my first death – my first named pet
a white mouse quivering in my palm
as I lay her on my sleeping mother’s chest
on a dare?

Did he really stomp it with his boot
in the woods behind our house
or did he set it free?

++++++++++ vii

The moment my mother
breathed her last breath five decades later
I knew whose life
he’d kill anything
to save.

Kathy Ackerman
from Repeat After Me, © 2022 Redhawk Publications, Hickory, NC


❦ ❦ ❦

Kathy Ackerman’s poems are just as real as life. They are life. Her lines give life’s breath to moments that need to be held in the heart and not forgotten, to people who need to be remembered and cherished, to love and to anger and to fear and to redemption that need to remain real and alive. So that we, not just her readers but now her friends, can live. So that we can live with what we might have mistaken for pointless or cruel or simply quotidian and mundane and realize that all of that, every bit of it together, is what comprises our life. What makes our life. What gives us life enough that we might have the possibility of sharing it with another.

Repeat After Me is Kathy Ackerman’s seventh book of poetry. If trees continue to grow, if creatures continue to crawl and call and chatter, if people continue to need other people, this book will not be her last.

❦ ❦ ❦

Wedding Day Baptism

++++ April 14, 1984

My unworn discout wedding gown
hugged my closet’s farthest wall for years
meant for an Ohio spring,
that flops from frost to sun and back again,
not this Florida heat.

My mother-in-law-to-be I met only yesterday.
She steams my dress with memories

newly wed so far from home her own gown hung
on homesick skin
those tropical years of mission work
in “heathen” Honduras.

She lacked all familiar sustenance
while I am frugal and pragmatic
flung to Florida by Fate who knew
her son would walk into a bar one night. . . .

Here I am surrounded by all I need –
fried chicken and an open bar,
friends who drove a thousand miles
to see me finally dressed like this
to see my finally sweat like this.

unlike the cake whose upper tier is sliding
to escape like me its lacey layers.
Sleeves cuffed on my wrist and collar like a hippie choker
are just too much.

The swimming pool outide is shining
like a future filled with cooling waves
so like a lover I leap

To learn a billowing gown
gone upside down
balloons on impact,
tangles like a parachute.

I struggle some but do not panic
finally drowning the past
in chlorine and champagne.

Tested, my groom
++++ the right one this time
doesn’t hesitate
to taint his rented tux
to save me from myself

while all the guests are aghast or thrilled
depending which side of the family they’re on
and what they need to be saved.

Kathy Ackerman
from Repeat After Me, © 2022 Redhawk Publications, Hickory, NC

❦ ❦ ❦


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