Callaloo 23.1 (2000) 188-189
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Reeling Memories for My Father
Part 1: In the Family
No child can imagine how it comes to this:
this present, fragmented, then lashed together
by the woman who chose us, the woman
we don't remember except in snatches.
You had it right after all. People pick up
a book of poems, flip through it, put it down,
but a story . . . who knows? . . . they might keep reading.
It might get turned into a movie some day.
In the movie, you stand in front of the sink--
your back to me--scaling porgies, perch, pike,
butterfish and carp, in that same narrow space
where she hunched against the inevitable.
Flashback. Load your green Rambler with nightcrawlers,
bloodworms, minnies, anise cornmeal mush, your
weekend case of Ballantine, and head out for
Friendship Bridge, a creek called Sanctuary.
Jump cut to Senior Care, fish sticks and canned shakes.
Split screen. I sneak your car keys from your dresser,
jimmy the cedar chest hoping to find your stash
before the hustlers come back to get the rest.
Instead, bachelor-widower Polaroids hidden
in a jar. Flashback. I watch you watch my mother
undress, her back to both of us. You pretend
sleep, I pretend I can't see in the mirror.
Dissolve. I take the black-handled tailoring
shears from Booker T. Trade and the GI Bill,
shred the last of your private, single man's life.
A daughter should never know such gospel. [End Page 188]
After you forgot this house and the heavy
mahogany she chose, you remembered what
her casket cost, and the exact amount
your father died owing you . . . But listen.
You taught me to bait and cast and reel. You remembered
me and your good hat. You joked. You were a gentleman.
You remembered the night your outfit shipped out for Paris.
You always remembered to miss your brother.
Kate Rushin is the author of The Black Back-Ups (Firebrand Books) and is currently Adjunct Assistant Professor and Visiting Writer in African American Studies at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where she teaches a poetry workshop and courses on Black literature.