The night my father died
he hit me.
In an extremity of pain

or whisky-rage or both,
one arm dead already,
he lashed out with the other

to send me spinning
across the floor,
more shamed than truly hurt.

I took my tears and hid them,
nursed them
till I heard him on the stairs.

I’m sorry I hit you, he said
and I waited.
Let’s make it up, old son.

Never – I spat out years
of resentment.
Never – and I turned away.

He left me then, and later
when I found him
the word was in the air.

Never – the dead forget
but a single word
can ride the living for life.


William Ayot