Ode working twice as hard for fathers and Jonnie Walker

Gary Jackson

I drank that blue a while back, but I give you

some black, give you some gold, while my mother,

bored, says show me some poems. So I show her

some poems, hand you the bottle. Thank you,

son. You keep calling me a word

that I don’t think is yours. Even though

you married into blood, blood

we ain’t, and that word sounds too foreign

from any man talking to me. You talking

’bout weather? Complaining about rain,

saying the sun don’t like me today.

Because you didn’t raise him, my mother once said. It hurts

being so brand new.

Some nights my father calls her, nostalgic & drunk.

You say That nigga wants his family back

and we laugh it off. Though you’re fast asleep

beside her when my father asks, heavy with longing, Why

doesn’t he call me back? After so many years

there are two men who want to fill the same space.

There’s no room tonight, but here you are

drunk on scotch and talking ’bout how some nights

you’re on fire and you wake up howling.

You need Jesus, my mother says. You look at her

thinking of the baby she lost and how you cried.

Wanting to relieve your pain, she told you it’s better this way,

’cause if you still wasn’t working, I’d have to choose

who to keep, and you’d be gone. You wanted to argue,

but she’s done it before. She’s laughing now, reading

lines from a poem: You want a man strong as gin —

what you think that means, Unc? She asks, already

knowing the answer. Shit, I don’t know? You say,

well on your way and wondering if you’re failing

a test. I’d chime in but I’m busy thinking

’bout the red I still had — should’ve given you

that. And took that gold back.

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