“On Pompano Beach after My Father’s Funeral” by Carolyn Martin, published in The Way a Woman Knows, released February, 2015 by The Poetry Box.
On Pompano Beach after My Father’s Funeral
I’m glad he never knew, my mother says
as we walk the storm-sloped shore, precarious
with angry clouds and wind. My father’s gone
and we’re deflecting grief with talk
deeper than weather in her Florida,
gardens in my Oregon.
She tells me she’s relieved I grew into myself
and never let him know. When all my mates
were feminine, she says she understood
and kept her peace.
Your daughter’s stubborn, bright, successful
on her own. Why bother with a man?
She fed my father facts without excuse.
It worked for years, she tells me now,
and she’s comforted.
I remind her of Sunday afternoons
when we owned the baseball field. He’d pepper
shots to older guys and I’d snag tosses
home, lobbing them so he could strike again.
I tell her how I loved a cowhide’s feel,
my Yankees cap, the smell of leather
in summer heat. And how, at twelve, I toughed
it out when hardballs bruised and stung.
My three sons, he loved to joke
about two boys and me.
Thank God, he never knew, she intervenes
and grabs my arm. The shifting sand unsteadies her.
I stop her almost-fall and tell her how I’m hurt.
Would it have been so bad? my voice on edge.
Her light blue eyes avoid my green. My father,
her best friend, is dead and here we are, slipping
toward that ancient mother/daughter thing
about who owns what’s right.
I hold her while she knocks sand from her shoes
and motions toward the car. But I won’t let
it slide. What if he knew? I press.
Would that have been so hard?
We stop where sidewalk meets the beach,
stubborn in our stance, awkward in our pain.
I’m holding on until her voice unsteadies me.
You’d lose his love, she claims with certainty.
Without remorse, without regret
my mother, his best friend, shatters me
with what I can’t conceive. She pulls away
before my voice can find its words
and stinging winds hit my face.