God’s Polaroid Camera (a poem)

For my father

in the dining room, action figures were imprisoned in a green vase, and you returned from prison with my uncle, looking slimmer

from pushups in sunbaked yards

mustache and dazed look gone, down on one knee, arms open wide & smiling with teeth I learned were fakes

I thought you were fake, too

unrecognizable, a stranger from a blurred past we no longer spoke of, only at grandma’s house, when we opened letters decorated by your brother with cut-outs from Marvel comics

& were told you were away on business –

I realize now, at an older age,

I was too hard on you & you were damaged,

haunted by the same night-screams as me

drinking, smoking, whoring

because you couldn’t contain the energy in your Marlboro veins

but as I saw you that afternoon,

you seemed fresh and full of life force

determined to walk straight out of the hell of our ancestors

but you didn’t realize it was a plank over stormy waters –

and that image – you in the dining room on one knee – has stayed with me

frozen in God’s Polaroid camera of love & heartbreak

and I can’t tell you now

but if you’re reading this in eternity

I want to say, “I love you”

(Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash)

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