Yesterday a friend told me how she longed for her father to show any interest in her. How she’d carefully planned to text him a few days before Father’s Day so that he wouldn’t feel the pressure of the holiday itself, but maybe he’d respond? I listened to her, told her how sorry I was, told her about others I knew in the same situation, thinking it might help her not feel so alone, as this poem by the magnificent Dwayne Betts floated through my mind.
Blood History, by Reginald Dwayne Betts
The things that abandon you get remembered different.
As precise as the English language can be, with words
like penultimate and perseverate, there is not a combination
of sounds that describes only that leaving. Once,
drinking & smoking with buddies, a friend asked if
I’d longed for a father. Had he said wanted, I would have
dismissed him in the way that the youth dismiss it all:
a shrug, sarcasm, a jab to his stomach, laughter.
But he said longing. & in a different place, I might
have wept. Said, Once, my father lived with us & then he
didn’t & it fucked me up so much I never thought about
his leaving until I held my own son in my arms & only
now speak on it. A man who drank Boone’s Farm & Mad
Dog like water once told me & some friends that there is no
word for father where he comes from, not like we know it.
There, the word for father is the same as the word for listen.
The blunts we passed around let us forget our
tongues. Not that much though. But what if the old
head knew something? & if you have no father, you can’t
hear straight. Years later, another friend wondered why
I named my son after my father. You know, that’s a thing
turn your life to a prayer that nay dead man gonna answer.
For more information about Reginald Dwayne Betts, please check out his website.
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