Jean Ryan

A Few Words for My Father

Asinka by Sonia Ferradj

The news of your death
brought no ripples of sadness—
no satisfaction either,

though it might have.
I did wonder what I would have felt
had I felt anything at all.
That’s how good I was at erasing you
from the life you left me with.

Last time I saw you
was in a store, 50 years ago.
I was searching through blouses
and there you were,
dangerously close,
your face a sudden, chilling fact.

We said whatever we said
and then I got away,
something I couldn’t do
when I was a child,
when wonder and terror
were my only options:
one moment gaping at tadpoles,
the next hiding in the woods.
From behind the trees
I could see our house,
knew you were in there,

She didn’t know, my mother maintained,
though you were hardly cautious.

Like so many others, you got off easy.
I wish I could have faced you
and wielded my only power:
words to take to your grave,
hurt that never heals.


About the writer:
Jean Ryan, a native Vermonter, lives in coastal Alabama. Her debut collection of short stories, Survival Skills, was published by Ashland Creek Press and short-listed for a Lambda Literary Award. Lovers and Loners is her second story collection. Her book of nature essays, Strange Company, is available in digital form, paperback and audio.

Image: Asinka by Sonia Ferradj. Mixed media. No size specified. No date specified. By permission. Ferradj is an artist in Paris.