A Poem for My Father

My dad wasn't the kind of guy who looked into his own depths. He was too busy moonlighting—days for the electric company and nights at a gas station. Men like my father keep our lives together without our even knowing it. And they hardly know it, either.

As a little girl, I suspected there was a whole world inside my dad, but how could I find out where he really lived? When I first heard a poem, I felt as though I were diving deep into a pool. I thought that if my dad would read one, he might dive deep, too—and join me on another shore where I would learn who he really was. But his reality was work boots and a hard hat and too many beers between shifts. I was often either in school or in bed when he came home.

But even if a daughter doesn't have a thing in common with her father, his DNA swims in her life.

After my dad died, I found I'd become a moonlighter. By day I taught seventh grade, and by night I worked like a demon to write poetry and to start "Poetry in Motion," which posts poems on the nation's subways and buses. I never asked why. I just kept busy.

One morning as I stood on the rush-hour subway going to my job, I saw a man in a work shirt, lunch pail crushed against him, callused hand on the steel strap, lurching as the subway car lurched—but searching, too.

What was he doing? He was reading the poem I helped to put up—diving into that pool of understanding I'd hoped my dad would swim across to meet me. And I met my father through that man on the subway car that morning.
—Molly Peacock

Next: Coping with losing a father


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