My father was in the backyard
working with the bricks and concrete blocks
and weathered 2 by 4’s
and big, dirty pipes-
the essentials of his livelihood.
Linda was out in the carport;
she looked more domesticated than refined.
When I was younger,
I went on a lot of trips with her.
She used to tell people
she was “my mother.”
I always made it clear:
She was MY STEP-MOTHER.
But unlike mama, she was assertive;
She walked out on him.
An air of tension lingered
as I stood among my blood kin.
We were family, but strangers,
Relative, yet distant.
My father had a typewriter for me.
Judging by the description
on the phone the night before,
It appeared to me a dinosaur;
I fancy the high-tech Macs.
Dad was beaming with enthusiasm
as he prepared to show it off;
The rope was around my neck, tightening.
When I was twenty,
I stood against him
and mentally castrated him,
But this day I was scared of him.
As a kid, he was the Zen Master;
he would carry me on his back
and we’d conquer the world.
Out of the night came Graelyn, my half-brother;
He wasn’t a squirt anymore-
but a football player.
As we three stood,
we made an attempt at male bonding,
But the words became murmurs lost to the rain.
When I was seventeen,
a bookworm and a loner,
I liked Hemingway more than party hopping,
Shakespeare more than fucking.
When Daddy asked, “Have you got any pussy yet?”
I blushed crimson
(an incredible feat for a black man).
When I told him I was still a virgin,
he wanted to disown me.
He couldn’t understand
I was a romantic.
I liked Coltrane and Langston,
I never did the nasty dunk
Even then I had doubts about
God and Jesus.
Whenever someone who knew my father saw me,
they’d always called me “Sonny”
‘Cause they said I favored him.
I had the Flat Top,
the abrasive, arrogant disposition,
the round butt high as a mountain,
the big, fine legs.
As I made my way back to the living room,
my eyes scoped out familiar pictures,
Tamiko, my half-sister probably went to college;
She must be glad to be free of his wrath.
Linda was sitting at the table,
making out the lesson plans,
Oblivious to my presence,
So I went to Graelyn’s room.
I noticed the double-barreled Winchester
hanging on the wall;
When I was twelve,
Dad taught me and Kevin how to hunt.
The closet was covered with pictures
of C.J. and football and Len Bias.
He asked me about my studies,
and I told him about the writing.
Daddy yelled out in the next room;
There was no second guessing:
You came or else.
Surprisingly, the typewriter was good,
Not exactly an Electro Computerized Whiz machine,
When I told him about the wonders of computers,
he seemed embarrassed,
and played it off without another word.
But the face always told the same story:
Nothing was ever enough to please him.
I longed for ages to get
beyond the man that he was.
Later on, I went back outside
and saw him working.
Only this time the rain was fierce.
But he didn’ t seem to mind;
I just stood there and watched him:
So many conflicting, confusing things
went on in my head. Occasionally,
he’d look my way;
All the lies that he had told in the past,
all the promises he had broken,
didn’t seem too much now.
I could forgive him for abandoning me.
But then, one of his friends said he was taking off,
and Daddy suggested I ride with him.
I guess the talk will have
to wait until another time.
Now, whenever people who know my father
Tell me I’m a lot like him,
I begin to wonder:
Am I what I am because of him,
Or in spite of him?
Erren Kelly is a pushcart nominated poet based in Portland, Oregon. He has been writing for 25 years and have over 100 publications in print and online in such publications as Hiram Poetry Review, Mudfish, Poetry Magazine(online),Ceremony, Cactus Heart,Similar Peaks, Gloom Cupboard, Poetry Salzburg, and other publications. His most recent publication was in In Our Own Words, a Generation X poetry anthology; He has also been published in other anthologies such as Fertile Ground, Beyond The Frontier, and other anthologies. His Work can also been seen on Youtube under the Gallery Cabaret links. He is also the author of the chapbook, Disturbing The Peace on Night Ballet Press.