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  • I remember now my father’s tone
    the one that sent me
    half-way up
    and half-way down the stairs
    to sit in limbo
    not because he told me to
    just because

    I can hear the treads creak
    as he sat beside me
    the dark rich smell of his pipe
    the rough wool of his jacket
    the softness of his voice
    as he whispered
    he never meant
    never meant to hear his father’s voice
    from his lips
    and his hand light on my head
    and then riffling through my hair

    Later he told the story of when his father was 10
    a long way from the shetl
    but not long off the boat
    selling eye glasses to Amish farmers
    from the back of a horse drawn wagon
    and how his grandfather broke the heavy wooden checker board
    over his son's head for presuming to win

    And later, a father myself
    how I resolved to not be like that with my Carly
    and the times I shone
    and the times I failed

    And if this is the pattern
    if we move beyond step by slow, measured step
    beyond and past
    the marks our parents left
    if so, then what did the father endure
    that his love is doled out by the buckle end of a belt
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