My Daddy used to love to stay up late.
If it was a weekend evening,
he’d sit in his chair in the living room
with his two bottles of Gallo ammo at the ready,
and deliver Thoreau’s A Plea for Captain John Brown.
Little me sat on a small sofa cushion In the middle of the floor, spellbound.
That magnificent speech, delivered from my father’s soul,
shaped my life.
Any freedom you may ever find your way to
via my writing
I have the book he read from in my hands right now:
The Works of Thoreau.
I open it to his speech on John Brown
with Daddy’s underlines and stars and comments 1958-1968.
I find an entry in pencil at the end:
My father died in 1972. But he gave me this.
It is burned into my soul in white hot letters,
and it lives and will give life through me,
in the love I pour into this world.
Dr. Deborah Hall
October 30, 1997
Daddy would hold forth eloquently on the universe
for hours on end
reading aloud from the great poets–
John Donne, Dylan Thomas, the Bible–
challenging us to think.
I was the only one there, but I heard him.
He never wanted to stop.
Hours after we had all gone to bed
he would finally clamber up the stairs.
Daddy was not a fan of the passage of time.
He had a wrist watch I remember well.
It was kinda like the one in the picture above,
except it had a worn brown leather strap.
I used to sit on his lap and buckle and unbuckle it
and watch the second hand move round and round.
One night I guess he had had his fill of time.
No, he didn’t pull a trigger on himself.
He despised Hemingway for doing that.
No, he hid his watch.
He hid that thing so well
that he couldn’t find it even when he was sober.
It just now dawns upon me…
more than sixty years later…
that he probably never looked.