Grace

My father taught me early that he wouldn’t always be there
with a hug and some tears as he left a failed
marriage and us kids for California

I cried too because I thought I was supposed to;
it would a shame to leave him alone in that.

It took a few years for me to realize I was
different from kids who had strong, smart men in their corner.

so I was pleased, when he moved back to town,
to have the strongest, smartest man in my corner
two days a week

Soon those two days were shortened
when he paid me five or ten dollars at a time to wait in the car
while he chugged vodka screwdrivers in dark, seedy bars.

When the time came, I had to rise to the occasion,
to be the one in my own corner, smart and strong
disguised as a growing boy, then young man,
too eager to do it all on his own.

We had lunch the other day.
It’s been six years since he had a drink;

he gave me three hundred bucks to pay my parking tickets.

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