Friday, July 15, 2016

July 15: Being a Dad, Jericho Brown, "Prayer of the Backhanded"

Being a dad is not an easy job.  I always worry that I'm not doing enough.  Not earning enough money to give my family the things they need.  There's still a hole in my kitchen ceiling.  My 15-year-old daughter is still sharing a bedroom with her seven-year-old brother.  My wife needs a new pair of shoes.  The list goes on and on.

I can't afford to take my kids on vacations to Disney World or Harry Potter World.  I would love to take my wife on a trip to Italy, visit Rome, see the tomb of Saint Francis of Assisi.  I have not made life choices that make these things possible, and it bothers me sometimes.  I think of it as father guilt.

My dad is a hard guy.  Not very emotionally available.  I've always known that he is proud of my accomplishments, but I've never felt like I could go to him for advice about anything beyond a leaky faucet or backed-up sewer.  That's just the way he's always been.  I can't ask an eighty-something-year-old man to change.  (He never spared the rod, either.  That's the way he was brought up.  His dad, my grandpa, once got mad at a cow on his farm and grabbed its horn, twisting it until it bent sideways.  The cow shuddered and moaned for days.)

Yes, fatherhood is a tough occupation.  (So is motherhood.  I'm in no way trying to diminish mothers with this post.)  Jericho Brown knows a thing or two about tough fathers.

However, Saint Marty is not a tough dad.  He's more of a teenage girl.

Prayer of the Backhanded

by:  Jericho Brown

Not the palm, not the pear tree
Switch, not the broomstick,
Nor the closet extension
Cord, not his braided belt, but God,
Bless the back of my daddy’s hand
Which, holding nothing tightly
Against me and not wrapped
In leather, eliminated the air
Between itself and my cheek.
Make full this dimpled cheek
Unworthy of its unfisted print
And forgive my forgetting
The love of a hand
Hungry for reflex, a hand that took
No thought of its target
Like hail from a blind sky,
Involuntary, fast, but brutal
In its bruising. Father, I bear the bridge
Of what might have been
A broken nose. I lift to you
What was a busted lip. Bless
The boy who believes
His best beatings lack
Intention, the mark of the beast.
Bring back to life the son
Who glories in the sin
Of immediacy, calling it love.
God, save the man whose arm
Like an angel’s invisible wing
May fly backward in fury
Whether or not his son stands near.
Help me hold in place my blazing jaw
As I think to say, excuse me.

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