Along the creek, Scott and I hear
something between a bullfrog
and a feral cat:
a call we cannot trace.

The week before, we babysat
his niece and nephew,
whose reply to everything was
My daddy can do that.
I laughed. Even as I swung from the jungle gym,
played the swordless supervillain
with only forearms to protect myself,
I was reminded,
Their daddy can do that.
I shook them from my legs like wasps.

We’ve forgotten the thermoses; our mouths dry out
like my native San Leandro Creek pulling for rain.
I, a child
of drought, would wait
for rain, pray on it, how I’d wait for my father
to leave his temper at the door,
but these days, I can’t
remember asking for anything
but sun, more sun.

By now, Scott is thirsty,
and between us, a vacancy,
as we return to the trail, fathers
to no one, not even to the distant call
of that nameless sound.



Click here to read Christian Paulisich on the origin of the poem.

Image: photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash, licensed under CC 2.0.

Christian Paulisich:

After returning home from a hike one afternoon, my boyfriend and I were haunted by a strange noise we could not locate. My poem “Daddy” is the product of me trying to reckon with something that never was and, perhaps, may never be.

I wonder how the poem arrived at a meditation on fatherhood; and yet I am reminded of the influence of our current emotional state on our perception of the world. The lack of closure the noise elicited in me was analogous to the lack of closure I felt with my estranged father.

I wanted to distinguish between the connotations of the words “father” and “dad/daddy” by contrasting the warm relationship between my boyfriend’s niece and nephew and their “daddy” (stanza 2) with my more detached relationship with my “father” (stanza 3). This contrast developed my feelings of cynicism and longing which drive the emotional entanglements present in the final stanza, which returns to the creek which inspired the poem.

Typically, I write drafts in blocks of prose and divide the stanzas by moments when tone or place shift. Traversing three distinct times, it was important for the poem to return where it began, at a creek off the Patapsco River; yet we arrive as a different being entirely, reminiscent of the structure of a descriptive-meditative poem.

Christian Paulisich
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