Father II

Gillian Kessler Poetry

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In this picture
there is yellow green earth.
Dark black skin.
An old white man walking with a small black child.
Big boulders border the periphery.
The old man wears a baseball cap, presumably to keep the sun at bay,
the little dark boy is in a sports jersey, a bright orange number “3”
across his middle.
The boy looks off, a dark heaviness in his eyes.  
The man looks at the boy.

There is movement in this picture.
The kind of movement that comes from open spaces.
Connection of only this. Only this moment.

I think of you and the movement I know.
You were gone at dawn, gone to save lives, run the show.
Words like crisis and trauma and emergency part of the
daily vernacular of our family though, I really didn’t know,
at all, what was going on. 
You left and then came home. 
Slipped in somewhat quietly.
Gently sorted through mail. 
Made yourself a dark drink,
ice softly floating. 

We didn’t make a lot of time for family reflection.
Didn’t recount the day’s events over a lively dinner table.
Didn’t have loud, boisterous debates over homework or chores.
We all did our thing. We observed the things of others.  We moved like outsiders
in a shared spaced. Daily dialogue was routine.    

So perhaps that’s why this photo of you is so arresting. 
You sharing this quiet moment in the green yellow grass with this small black boy.
You living humbly, saving for months, then packing your bag of tricks and
venturing across continents, across lifetimes and worlds
to carve out such simplicity. 
This simple dialogue between two humans.
It doesn’t matter right now if the drugs you’ve found will
help save this boy’s mama. It doesn’t matter if he is sick. 
The only moment you both have is now.

There are no eight children to pay for, worry about, disappoint. 
There are no wives, no colleagues, no competition.
There aren’t massive bills and college funds and larger homes.

There is this quiet walk,
the gray boulders,
the soft hum of the wind.
There are the questions that you ask. 
The way that you listen.

After your stroll, you will both return to the village.
Everyone will greet you with their wide, white smiles and you will
clasp their dark, dry hands. 
You will hold their babies. 
Play their games. 
Hear their songs.
You will surrender to simplicity
in a place ravaged
by disease, by shame and be
the father that you never had
the chance to be.

Find more from Gillian on Mamalode!


About the Author

Gillian Kessler

Gillian Kessler can be found dancing to loud music, teaching exuberant children to appreciate language, writing in the early morning when everyone is asleep and exploring the wilds of Montana with her beautiful family. Read more about her eclectic and full life at .

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