Elegy For My Father
Were you in the room when air first filled my lungs?
Did you smile and say, “look at her tiny fingers?”
There in the dim hospital light, my mother,
exhausted and too young for this,
Did you lift me into your arms, flannel wrapped bird bones,
and whisper, “I’ll never let anyone hurt you.”?
Do you remember the last time you saw me?
Did you hug me and tell me to be brave?
Did you promise that you’d find me one day?
One day, when you could love who you loved,
and love me too?
Did you button my coat, hold my head in both of your hands, and say
“Be a good girl. Do what they tell you.”?
Sometimes, when you were walking in the woods,
When you noticed the way the light made rivulets
On the forest floor,
The vultures sliding in slow circles above the trees
The brown cardinal calling for her mate
Did you wonder where I was, who I had become?
Did you think, “I hope she knows the names of the birds.”?
Did you think, “I hope she knows that I loved her too”?
Sometimes, on a country road,
Eyes squinting in the too bright sun, that song on the radio,
the one that makes you remember,
Did you look at your two hands on the wheel and think
“Does she have these hands?”
“Does she know this song?”
“Does she think of me?”
Was I in the room when the air left your lungs?
Did you cry and say, “I wish I had told her”?
There in a thin hospital gown, my father
Exhausted and too young for this,
Did you close your eyes, unfurl your fists
and whisper, “I never meant to hurt you.”?
By Stefani Heather
Stefani Heather is an educator, writer, and poet. She lives in Georgetown, Texas with her wife, Emily, two small dogs, and roughly 300,000 bees, give or take.