by Kathryn Dunn
What would you say to your father
if he came back--if he could--
that you haven't already said
over and over, a thousand times
in his absence, like a rosary,
Hail Mary, Mother of God; keeping yourself
bound to him with your mantra, keeping
the feel of his hand on your shoulder,
carrying it always, not even knowing it.
What could you say to the man
you have held at a distance of one stiff arm
from the moment he died, with words like
he brought it on himself, and son of a bitch.
The man about whom you could only find hatred,
stunned by memories his death allowed.
What could you say to yourself
about allowing this man his faults,
his pain, when for fifteen years
that meant wronging yourself:
if he was bad, then you were alive;
if he was good, you were dead.
That was the formula--Hail Mary
Mother of God. What do you say
when you understand
the legacy that lives in your body
is yours, and the man who gave it to you
has died. Your hatred can no longer serve
his condemnation, or yours.
You must begin to find a way
into the legacy. Carry it, study it,
learn every corner and curve--
to do any less
will freeze the shoulder that feels his touch,
the arm that pushes him out.
You must begin with
what can you say to your father
you haven't already said.
WRITING PROMPT: Write about your father's legacy within you.