Saturday, November 9, 2013


When she asks you
where he is
for the first time
at age seven
out of the blue
while sitting at the kitchen table
mouth gorged with Cookie Crisp cereal
milk dribbling down her chin
no eye contact
staring at the side of the box
feigning astuteness of its
foreign ingredients

when she lays
the $64,000 question
in the middle of the table
and assertively
clearly premeditated
with an air of suspicion


miss me
with the mock shock
in your eyes
you had to know
this would happen
it’s not like
he’s ever been there
to tuck her in
at night
piggyback her
around the house
twirl her in her
favorite dress
and tell her how pretty
daddy’s little girl looks
or be there at the bottom
of the slide to catch her
at the playground
drop her off
at the school bus
share an ice-cream cone
and prop her on his knee
to tell her how much
he adores her
like all the other little girls’
fathers do

not like she hasn’t noticed
bathed her pillowcase
in tears
when you turned out
the lights at night
hoping he’d become a magician
and appear in places
other than her dreams

not like she hasn’t
wanted to ask you
before today

so don’t act brand new


brace yourself
this is the single-most
important answer
you'll ever give her
you have this chance only
to nail it
don’t screw it up

and this may feel
like thumbtacks
kung-fu fighting
in your throat—

swallow your rage for him

hide your noxious words
in the alcove
of your voicebox
and deadbolt them
they're not trustworthy

detour the fatal venom
speeding down your tongue

if you let it crash
onto the table
and allow its toxic debris
to penetrate her innocence
it will destroy her
on impact

your jaws of life
won’t be quick enough
to retract any regrettable utterances
or extract her from
the spiritual wreckage
you'll entomb her in

you'll destroy her

do not rip
her embryonic esteem
from her 3-foot soul
she's precious
and impressionable
so guard her from your contempt
at all costs

acknowledge the fact
that although he left you
with the memories
of the worst of your merger
he also left you
with the best part of him
a lotus flower
that emerged from the swamp
of your muddy relationship

you were pro-him
when you let him
probe you
now the problem of his absence
and how it’s affecting you
is yours
not hers

truth is
you don’t hate him
you loath yourself
for being an open target
for a bullet
you were too weak
to dodge

so when she unglues her eyes
from the side of the box
and they meet yours
in preparation
for the critical reply


with everything you’ve got
no matter how much it hurts
and tell her
he’s there
with her
every minute of the day
in her laugh
sense of humor
the curve of her smile
shape of her hands
texture of her hair
the mole on her chin
in all the things she can do
that you can’t

tell her

how lucky she is
cuz he’s
closer to her
than he is
to anyone else

grit your teeth if you have to
hold that smile in place
with every thread of
strength your face can muster
when you profess
what a great man he is


every bit of good
he ever was
every bit of love
he ever possessed
he stored it
inside of her

©2013 Charlene E. Green