Books I Never Read with my Father
At a certain age the books would have been epic
battles and blood-letting since he never spoke of war
even though his unit was wiped out except for him
and left him fragile, hospital-going, until his end.
Or maybe dog-eared books on the dry Southwest
where he grew on his family pinto-bean farm
until the dust, year after year, and blight drove
them to the Texas panhandle to work at boomtown oil.
All that spoke to me was the scar across his brow
where a tractor-pulled rake had run over him.
There were no volumes on sports, on semi-pro basemen
from leagues in dusty towns where his brothers starred.
Or books about religious fervor, the holy-ghost haunted
halls where pentecostal whoops met Granddaddy’s smiles.
No history books that spoke of Walden where we swam
and the rude, arched bridge he took us to in his Ford each Fall.
Romances were out of the question, even though roses, yellow
ones, were offered to his wife as if his body had burst into blossom.
No. Our books were the hours of silence as we sat so close
together and I brushed my hand over his unworded scar.
by Royal Rhodes
Editor’s Note: This poem’s skillful use of allusion and imagery creates an emotional atmosphere fraught with both love and difficulty.