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 Contemporary poetry by Dan Donlan


The last time we saw our father
Mom and I were being taken to the hospital
Mom's nose broken her face battered
She worried about me eleven had challenged my Father and lost
A rag doll I was thrown against the wall
In emergency with a blackout concussion and crushed vertibrae
Mom holding my hand and crying
Her face bloodied begging me to wake up
The police took my Father but he always returned
I was sent to live with relatives
Mom only came late at night and not often
I was thirteen when we came out of hiding
I lifted weights fought shadows
Bringing them down to size
No longer a child I was six foot two
I was back at my old school no sign of my Dad

One day it was snowing
I pulled the red wagon with groceries
Sis and Mom were carrying bags
We were cold and struggling
Mom could not afford a car and rent
A car pulled up
The trunk opened and a man told me to put groceries in
Mom argued, "You know Mi---?"
That was the first I saw of my future stepdad
After release from the hospital I changed schools
Did not see Mom or my Father
Sis was with Mom we were being protected in hiding
I would assume by the very man who became my Stepdad
One day Mom came and we started over

A fifteen year old took the picture---Me!
Mom and my Step dad going on their first date
The Wino nowhere in the picture--my Father!
Who despite the divorce considered Mom his possession
Mom once won a Elizabeth Taylor lookalike contest
A picture worth a thousand words she was beautiful
On that day she was happy first time in years

As with all pictures not all the story was good
Shortly after they left I heard the ten ton coal truck
though he seldom worked our only transportation
 his delapitated still possessed coal truck
Sis and I dreaded the sound of the motor
It meant Dad was home and drunk
I told Sis to go out the front door if he came in the back
I was waiting to take him on
Sis ran in the back room grabbed the shotgun
I loaded the shotgun as fast as I could
My Step dad left it for Mom's protection
The backdoor came shattering in,
Drunk and raving as usual he came crashing in
I pulled the trigger and not even a click
Sis had handed me rifle bullets
All six foot seven of him stood threatening to beat me with the gun
"Ten nine eight---" For a moment the coward sobered up--He ran!
As I tossed the shotgun on the table to face him as a man

I never saw my Father again until his funeral
I went with my Step dad to give up any of his Estate
State law in  a nearby State no Will the eldest son is executor
Some said he lived off a rich widows inheritance
I wanted no part of him alive or dead
My father as in the picture stood beside me as I signed
Mom died on January 19, 1972
Two days after her 54Th birthday
On her nineteenth anniversary with my step dad
The only happy days of a tormented life
From orphan to life as an abused wife of a drunk
Sis died in 1977 young on Mom's day of birth at  66
A picture is worth a thousand words
As I look at this picture it all passed before me
Had the box of shotgun shells on the table been loaded correctly
How this whole story would have changed!
Had he not ran Sis handed me a loaded pistol
Tears are in my eyes as I write this
It happens every year this week as I remember that day
The day a picture taken was worth a thousand words

The days in my youth I fist fought my peers
For the day I could take on my Father and protect Mom
Golden Gloves: The bloodied Sailor twice my age
"Kid you stopped fighting you could have been champ."
A beaten foe I was disqualified for no longer hitting him
When I realized the Sailor was not my Father

But there was more to the picture
The tiny man standing next to Mom who loved her dearly
Had from the moment he first saw her
My dad won with intimation
But he could no longer stand aside
Took the pistol from me and found my father
The gun to his head said,
"You come near that woman or those kids again.
Trust me I well pull the trigger!"
They say a picture is worth a thousand words!
Some would say fiction if they did not know
The picture was taken by me!

My stepdad who dearly loved my Mother
Died last year at the age 100+
He was an Sheet medal Wizard
The railings on the top of Space Tower Seattle
Were his work as chief contractor
He was five foot four 141 ibs
He told me, "Your Father was six foot nine."
There are several versions of how tall he was
I could no longer stand by and watch his abuse
The picture is honored as his bravery
Eleven years old I challenged my Father
Rode beside my Mom in an ambulance with injuries
From that moment I made a promise it would not happen again
I regret I did not put down the shotgun I was ready to fight him like a man
A picture is worth a thousand words
Ages have been changed by memory


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