Looking for my Father
after John Berbrich
I see you in the likeliest faces.
A gray man piloting a family-filled car,
small like your Fiat, but not purple.
A tall man in the checkout line –
it’s something in the eyes – the weariness,
the yearning. At home, in my own way
of silly joking coinflipped
with moody snark when the kids annoy.
In my mechanical ineptitude. In thinking,
thinking, I’m under a lot of pressure boys,
I s’pose your mother wants me to eat, always
thinking, thinking. Were I adopted,
I’d still be your son. I’ve never come home
with a new car bought at sticker price
in manic glee, but I have gone weeks
barely sleeping, giving away all my books
and music to strangers. That’s half a life ago,
when I lost your navy jacket on the steps
of a closed Catholic church wandering Ithaca
at 3 a.m. I still have the camel’s hair blazer,
one elbow worn through. It doesn’t fit
anymore. Sometimes when I pester the kids
I hear your wife’s voice, not yours, escaping
my throat. Sometimes I dream you stayed alive
and left and were angry at me
when I went looking for you.
I can be in my head, or singing in the car,
or looking sharply at the kids in the rearview
as you did with us, looking for you, looking,
and you’re nowhere to be found.
Steve Henn, author of Indiana Noble Sad Man of the Year (forthcoming from Wolfson Press), writes, raises kids, and teaches high school in Warsaw, IN. He owes a debt to John Berbrich for providing thematic inspiration in his own poem. Steve's dad died in 1991.