The Prnis That Eluded Me


The Penis that Eluded Me
The painting still hangs in my office.
Decades have passed,
Since you left this earth.
I see it every time I look up from my work
Lost in thought.
Passed down from my mother’s mother,
Your wife, my best friend.

Grandma told me
You picked it out.
She said, “Papa kept yelling,
‘That’s me and the baby.’”
That baby was me –
The youngest girl
In our close-knit family.
The fact you chose that painting,
The sole piece of evidence
That you did love me.

When I was four-years-old
I saw you in the hallway bathroom
At the Igloo Drive house
That you built with calloused hands.
I opened the door,
Surprised by the sight of you
Standing and peeing,
The first man I had ever seen.
Raised by a single mother
And taught to pee sitting down.
The triumphant, pressured
Arc of your pee
Was magic to me.

Grandma taught me
To bake biscuits from scratch
With buttermilk.
I always loved it
When she added cheese.
The three of us played
Cards at the dining room table,
And inevitably, it was always
Me who got beat.
“Throw that score in the fireplace,”
I would sob,
And you would throw up your hands
And angrily leave.
Grandma always comforted me
With a soft embrace and tissue paper hands.
You eluded me, but
It has always been
Your reassurance I seek.

I remember your work pants
Khaki or navy Dickies
With a crisp stiffness at the seam.
Short-sleeve, plaid shirts
With a breast pocket
And a well-ironed crease.
I admired the way grandma
Cared for you the same way she cared for me.

From the shadows, I watched you
Carefully hidden, so as not to be seen.
I came to love baseball
And loved the Mets
The way you loved the Braves;
I watched how you caressed
The thick pages of Sports Illustrated Magazine.
The Swimsuit Edition was a favorite
To you, as it was to me.
The memory of your strong presence
Is something I have carried with me.

In that painting,
The little girl sits
Wide-eyed and pretty
Next to the man
I reckon was you.
His weather-worn face
Tells tales of war-time tragedy
His stern exterior
Contrasts with the softness of
The baby girl at his side.
But his eyes are alit with wonder
And love for his baby,
That’s me.

Inside me, a storm has been raging
Like the one that is building
Behind the man and the girl
In the boat at the sea.
You taught this baby
How to grow up strong
To be the kind of man
You always were to me.
Given a paint brush,
I would cut the girl’s locks
And replace her dress
With matching knickers
And a plaid, ironed shirt
to reflect the image
I have always seen.

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