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About Dad

I would like to write a short poem
     about my father
and the day he led a cow home
     through a thunderstorm,
to tell you how they were both struck by lightning
     and survived,
and how it changed their lives in ways
     the cow could never understand
     and Dad could never talk about.

I would love to tell you about that, but I can't
     because I just made it up,
and if he's ever been slammed by a half-million volts
     he's never mentioned it to me.

I could ask him. He lives not far from here
     and we talk now and then.
He might cock his head, repeat the question,
     and give me a quizzical look.
I am certain of this: that whether it ever happened
     or not,
I guarantee that no one's ever asked if it has,
     and cow or no cow,
it's not a question he's ever anticipated
     --not even from me.

So he'd shake his head, take a sip of Scotch
     and tell me yes or no.
But the question might remind him of a story,
     which he'd tell me--
not something ending in a moral or lesson,
     but with a great punch line.

Or he might wonder why I'd asked--what made me think
     of such a question.
And if I felt brave and honest and rash, I'd say,
     "A poem occurred to me,
And I wondered if it was about you at any time,
     Or just a mental phantom."

And he'd nod and remember that I'm that son:
     the one who doodles;
the one who plays with words and numbers,
     never cared for balls and bats.

In all the years I've been alive he's had eight jobs;
     I've had thirty-two.
He's golfed nine thousand holes, and fished
     a million bass, while
I've tramped through virgin boreal forests,
     and bathed in icy streams.

We've moved through our days and years as differently
     as cows and clouds--
sometimes mutually incomprehensible;
     sometimes touching
with a spark that changes places inside us
     beyond the reach of words.

Copyright 1997 and 2018, William Alan Bruce Maloney
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