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You Stayed - A Poem by N. Daniel


I went home again for a year to landscape with my Dad - September 15, 2012.

You Stayed


Calloused fingers Clenched around an old, Splintering garden spade. Wiry threads of graying hair, Disheveled under a fading baseball cap. Bronzed skin, wrinkled And weathered with time and sun.

Your clothes were dirty and full of holes. You were near a resilient greenhouse, Whose plexiglass panels Were beginning to turn amber with age. The cicadas sang through the trees, Beams of light cascading between branches. You were smiling, as if to say, "You are home, Son."

All I saw was a broken man. A humbled man covered in filth, Standing beside a pile of crumbling bricks, And a few mounds of pulverized dirt. Even the greenhouse Seemed to be coming undone.

I didn't want to come undone.

You brushed the dirt away, Knocked your boots together, To shake off the caked up mud, And returned to the Antiquated farmhouse, With the paint peeling and cracking On the siding, as I left. I escaped to the city And I made a life. We all did.

You stayed. You waited. You dug in deep, And you suffered. You suffered so much.

But you never stopped loving us.

The garden spade broke, Under the weight of your grief. Your hair turned to silver, With the wisdom earned in your pain. Your darkened skin became cancerous.

Our lives are fragile.

The greenhouse was torn down And though it had been A symbol of your achievements It had also come to teach us all A lesson in impermanence And was no longer needed.

I miss it so much now.

I miss the sweet damp smell of the potting benches. I miss the peaceful afternoons Of transplanting cuttings with you, Watering perennials in golden silence, And the diligence of pulling The tiny budding weeds Springing up everywhere in the garden. I miss taking off my shoes And letting the soft, wet dirt squish Between my toes.

But most of all I miss you.

Now, when I come to visit, Your door is always open. You grant me the privilege Of walking with you through

All of the beautiful gardens You spent your life creating And we talk as though I had never left.

You feel like home.

But I regret leaving you, Dad. I feel ashamed of making you suffer. I feel ashamed of judging you For only doing what you love And I wonder what my life Would have been like With more of you In it.

I know there is still time to make it right.

I love you, Dad. I love you back. I can't wait to see you again.



- September 8, 2019. -

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