From the bottom of an abandoned gravel pit
behind my childhood home, seated,
leaning against its hardpacked sandy side,
he watched the July sun set,
the empty prescription bottle at his side.
Did he walk that day to his unnatural fate
slowly, shoulders rolling like a big cat,
alternating first one, then the other,
forward, head bent, one black errant
curl tumbling across his troubled forehead.
Did he hesitate or did he hurry
and did he think of me, just 12,
soon to be fatherless, before he
began his two weeks of decomposing
in the hot Texas sun until
the man on horseback found him
while looking for a lost calf.
I couldn't blame my mother
for the divorce she filed.
I had wanted him to leave, too,
and hadn't I prayed he would die
when he dragged her over the yard,
by a handful of her hair clasped
tightly in his fist,
because she had cut it without his permission.
Especially the next day when I found
the clump of auburn hair caught in the lush
purple blooms of the wisteria bush,
I wanted him to die.
He played his harmonica for me,
and I sang, "Daddy's Little Darling,
Don't you think I'm sweet?"
But I prayed my dad would die,
and though I asked God to ignore those
prayers of terror, I will never be able to
love enough wayward men to save my dad.