I wipe tiredness from my eyes.
It’s morning, another day survived.
And so begins the drip of last-night scoops
of coffee into a mug, World’s Greatest Dad.
I fail to measure up to that cup’s depth,
a half-assed bundle of Irish rage
and remembrance of children dancing gingerly
as I brood in my La-Z-Boy.
I exchange mementos of saved ticket stubs
and photos taken at the zoo in front
of the Gross Outpost in Africa
where birds pick ticks from rhinos and the kids
pose—daughter as tick remover, son
as tick removee—for a warm, toaster
strudel, strawberry with cream-cheese icing
squeezed from a plastic pouch. This is
the sedimentary layer of my family
for which no fossil record exists—
just remnants from a psychiatrist
office, the strength of Prozac and Adderall
noted on the clipboard of someone
more attuned to the ebb and flow
of family dynamics, one’s mouth
a bucket in the act of fill and pour,
I’m a feather on the end of a cap of a man
halfway between dawn and dusk, a time
for white-tailed deer and auto insurance
deductibles. A fur-patch adorns my cracked bumper.
I loved my mother, but did not like her.
This is the legacy my children pull
from the sand and wash at the water’s edge:
A scallop shell nudging its way from ivory
to orange, and its edge, sharp and varied,
biting into the soft fat of a child’s fingers.
This poem appeared in East by Northeast, September 2020.