Papa

by Yolanda Calderon-Horn
The Writers Block
Second Place, April 2011
Judged by Judith Fitzgerald


I roamed like a leaf between your limitations
and mine until the day after you were discharged.
Peter drove you to my workplace; you stepped
out of the van with a smile I later added to my
collection of favorite accessories. The sun

was a welcome sign on your slender face.
Hospital gowns are for the sick, Papa.
But you in a Cubs t-shirt, painter pants
and leather sandals gave breath to winded
hope. Un abrazo para mi niña.

Your branch thin arms embraced me.
The sandalwood in your aftershave
treaded softly on my cheek. And I
recalled being 19, in my white gown,
wearing remnants of that scent
as you cried: her mother and I do.

Wellness came upon me- a wellness
that could have whispered:
you were under your Papa’s weather,
clouded by his chest pain, sluggish
kidneys and diabetic seesaw.

Saw you, and I stopped roving
from hope fixed to a big assignment.


A refreshing lyric penned by an original thinker, the poem works because the title's compression yields up recognitions moment by moment till "winded hope" expires, replaced by "hope fixed to a big assignment," enlarged by the accessorising sun's enjambment, that unforgettable smile a tattoo of joy in the sorrowing grief. While the ordinary details carry readers inexorably to the poem's kick-in-the-head closer, its contents, telegraphed in that pivotal moment when "wellness" grants the speaker a sort of second sight, from "seesaw" to "saw" (sow to seek). That subtle collocation alone, not to mention the way in which "Papa" recasts lovely touches of the Romantic movement, makes this entry a near-masterpiece along the lines of Wallace Stevens or William Carlos Williams, say. Family. Loss. Faith. The wounded works. --Judith Fitzgerald

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