Not a Father’s Day Poem

Father’s Day

The cop leans over to light a cigarette
out of the wind coming off Lake Michigan
straightens as I pass him
his face full of broken capillaries
red and hard and pocked
like my father’s from years
of hard drinking

The cop smiles
but I haven’t heard from my dad
in years so I just look away

Browsing the poetry shelves
in a used bookstore on Milwaukee Avenue
I pull Sharon Olds’ book about her father
who dies in several poems
near the middle

The poems evoke a good strong man
whose daughter loves him so much
she has to write an entire book
to process her grief

Because they are beautiful
and I cannot write such poems
about my own father
I buy the book
put it on my shelf
where it stays


My biological father turned 72 this past Saturday. I have not seen him since my wedding in June 2001, and have not spoken to him since his phone was disconnected some months later and he never responded to any of the letters or cards I sent him until I stopped sending them. He doesn’t know he has grandchildren or that his eldest daughter is a tenured college professor.

Having an alcoholic parent who is also likely mentally illl while struggling with depression and chronic pain (which research suggests are closely linked, if not causally connected)–something that I haven’t written much about because well, it’s painful and sad and it’s been done before. But I think I need to work my way through this in writing–especially as I’ve already been through enough therapy to be self-aware and more therapy is something I can’t really afford right now.

So, onward. If not necessarily upward.

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