My father was an enormous man Who believed kindness and lack of size Were nothing more than sissified Signs of weakness. Narrow-minded, His eyes were the worst kind Of jury — deliberate, distant, hard. No one could out-shout him Or make bigger fists. The few Who tried got taken for bad, Beat down, their bodies slammed. I wanted to be just like him: Big man, man of the house, king. A plagiarist, hitting the things he hit, I learned to use my hands watching him Use his, pretending to slap mother When he slapped mother. He was sick. A diabetic slept Like a silent vowel inside his well-built, Muscular, dark body. Hard as all that With similar weaknesses — I discovered writing, How words are parts of speech With beats and breaths of their own. Interjections like flams. Wham! Bam! An heir to the rhythm And tension beneath the beatings, My first attempts were filled with noise, Wild solos, violent uncontrollable blows. The page tightened like a drum Resisting the clockwise twisting Of a handheld chrome key, The noisy banging and tuning of growth.
Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Sayers Ellis. From Maverick Room. Used with permission of Graywolf Press.