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  • daddy sings us goodbyes, and: No one comes out unscarred
  • Stewart Shaw (bio)

daddy sings us goodbyes


He mixed rhythm & blues with his gin. Stirred it until It was a party

Caught catfish on Fridays swam through ditches on his way home.

Daddy through breath, hot from Lucky Strikes, told his mama when he left home the first time—you still ma girl. Told mama—when he got home, the second time baby, you, still ma girl.


He is memory sepia-toned, hands reaching down, out of nowhere to collect me—he is ghost haunting walls and dreams— an occasional family picnic.


Daddy wanted to be famous; somebody thought he was Otis Redding as he sung with the radio that was perched on top of the refrigerator. Wanted to taste the red clay layered in the music, wanted to be reminded of home, the honey cloistered in the soil there. His dreams made him forget us for moments and hours, got him lost in his souring cup, turned his insides black and rebellious.


And mama, us kids waited. Maybe for the real Otis to slip in behind daddy’s singing, [End Page 326] come and lay hands on tiny heads napped like Bible verses, ease us into light; keep daddy happy when he wasn’t singing, or maybe when he was.

No one comes out unscarred

I have come here To find my father. Come

To nature to find out if As they say we have the same growl and brow

Or if he believes in me Like I do him. Why

My knuckles become hirsute And itch in winter, I will ask

Why are your feet so big That they continuously take you away?

I will ask—Is this The way of my future?

Finally I will classify him/myself

Animal, vegetable, mineral Myth.

Know beyond the abstract, beyond picture, Grainy film that I do exist.

Following the echoing growl Of my harsh breathing at altitude

I walk into brush and tree Chimeric landscapes

Where I have read he can be Found.

Tales say—no one Who goes in, comes out Unscarred. [End Page 327]

Stewart Shaw

Stewart Shaw is a librarian for an urban West Coast public library. He has attended writing conferences in various African nations. His poems have been published in Black Arts Quarterly, Temenos Literary Journal, The Missing Slate, as well as a short story in Mighty Real: An Anthology of African American Same Gender Loving Writing. He is a Cave Canem Poetry Fellow.



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pp. 326-327
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