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Prayer to a Dead Father Father, I never forgave you those lessons to learn my ABC's at three, trembling and peeing my pants in fear of not pleasing you, your scowl a red welt stinging. Only till fourth grade could I say them through, lined like wooden blocks A-Z, just as your loops with shoe laces never quite fit my hand, granny knot the usual failed attempt-to this day give me boot, slipper or buckle-what holds without a line to grip me in knots. At eight I would prove a man, leaning to sight along the barrel of the 12 gauge you held smiling, the group of men squatted, waiting the shot that sent me breathless, reeling backward from the silent, knowing faces, my shoulder stinging into ache beyond the worst kick, that purple patch of betrayal hanging for weeks above my heart. At thirteen my buddies, the two beagles you brought home as pups, penned out back, hungry to break free, lay back their ears in a lope, trail every luring scent: a mile from home, noses to ground, you found them, jerked each up by an ear, swung them like feed sacks, yelps and howls worse than my screams, rage doubled by your threat to swing me by an ear if I didn't shut up. Was it their yen for freedom you hated, the leap to wild abandon beyond your discipline forever? 68 So I believed returning home from college when a friend told me your belief that I was ruined by books, words you claimed were back talk and sass, so set free no longer to be the son you wanted, words burning my ears all these years. So forgive me, Father, for even now I cannot forgive you. —Jeff Daniel Marion 69 ...


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pp. 68-69
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