A father like mine

by Greta Bolger
The Waters
Second Place, August 2015
Judged by C. Wade Bentley


A father like mine

did not work in an office
nor in any factory. Too many people,

too many rules. He took a bag lunch
to his grab bag of jobs: cleaning

up after autopsies, digging graves,
fixing cars, installing plate glass,

taking care of old ladies’ yards.
He called himself a “horticulturist.”

In his pants pockets, we found sharp
stones and screws, bottle caps —

never paperclips or While You
Were Out slips. He was always Out,

on the outs with us, prone to slips
soon after dry-outs. After work,

he ate cheese and saltines,
drank a quart of Stroh’s,

smoked and yelled at whoever
was around, perpetually pissed.

His missing front tooth made him lisp
on words like “office” and “pizza.” He hated pizza.

We never had what you would call a “conversation.”

His coffin was provided by the Army.
Four of us stood in the cold, numb.

There may have been a flag.


I enjoyed the word-play in this poem, especially in the fourth and fifth stanzas, and in the double-meaning of “pissed.” The poet lays out concrete details of the father’s life as if emptying pockets, post-mortem. --C. Wade Bentley

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