Happy birthday, Dad

Today is my father’s birthday, and I knew when I started this poem-a-day fun that this poem would definitely be the one for today.  It was kind of happy luck when I re-discovered the Patricia Smith poem that was posted yesterday that helped to inspire this piece.  After I saw her perform “Sweet Daddy”, where she shared lots of personal details about the relationship she had with her father, I went home and wrote this piece for my dad to celebrate his birthday.  I remember that the family got together in Las Vegas for the occasion, something we did for a couple years for a while.  I read it out loud as we all hung out and it was a lovely moment that I like to think on.  Happy birthday, Daddy-O!

Patricia Said…
by Lizzie Wann

(a birthday poem for my father)

Patricia said her daddy read her newspaper stories at bedtime
so she became a reporter.

You took me on interstate trips, skirting company policy of no passengers
& I have become this.

Patricia said in half-dark, she would stand on her father’s feet & they danced in the kitchen.

We have done this too.

Patricia said he taught her how to make hot water cornbread.

You also have cooked for me, chocolate chip waffles for breakfast at noon on Sundays
& I used to sit on the ice cream maker as you hand-cranked it.
I stared at enormous salt crystals that spilled out as you added them to the brew
on hot August afternoons in that dry Snake River hometown of mine.

Patricia said he is dead now, taken by a bullet in a robbery.
She grew into his legacy for language.

You are alive and a year older
and have no bones to pick with me.

Patricia said she whispered against his cheek about a boy’s first kiss in their
hot skillet cornbread kitchen.

You have never inquired about boys, or men for that matter.

But in that silence of griddle ready for batter
& ice cream almost perfect
& the feel of your work boots that I helped unlace under my own child feet
hand in hand, we stepped in a dance.

And I say, Patricia, we girls own the purest love and know the best dancers.

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