A Story, Still, to Tell

Everyone thinks they have a story
                                                   to tell, you told

me, so young and believing my novel
would be the next great bestseller.  It still isn’t
fully written, but your words
reverberate off the years, the years since
that moment, my arms leaning against the sill
of your car window— the day’s blue fading
to the night’s blue, that ice blue of your eyes
I always envied, that blue I see in my son’s—
the years since you drove off into whatever
adventure follows this one.

At the time, hearing your words,
I was annoyed.  Maybe everyone
does, but mine would be different,
I argued with you, in my head.
Some part of me was angry, stayed
angry, for a while.  You were supposed
to build me up, tell me how amazing,
how perfect, how ridiculously talented
I was.  That was your job, as my father—
to throw open the skies above
my perception.  Make me believe
in myself.

Before you left, you read The Notebook,
read the story about Nicholas Sparks
and his teenage project, how it exploded
like stacked Russian Dolls, erupting, eventually,
into the movie half the world’s women profess
to love most.  You told me write your story.
Start now!  Maybe
I was wrong.  You seldom were
the man to admit your faults, but you told me
it couldn’t hurt to try.  But I wouldn’t
be writing any Sparks-like, hopeless romantic
, I told you.

I didn’t start early enough.  I couldn’t
use those rolling dollar signs I expected
to help you, through the surgeries, through
the month when you lay in a coma, but
I read his newest book to you (because
you loved him, and I loved you) as you slept.
I didn’t write that story when you woke, either,
when I joined the Navy.  You sent letters
with clippings from the TV Guide, pictures
of Natalie Portman dressed in white,
her midrift bare and begging my eyes,
begging for my return, so we could go
see the film together.

I didn’t write that story when I visited
after boot camp, and we didn’t go
see her movie, either, after
the diminishing weight of your body
became too great, pinning you
to a faded blue armchair.  We tried
to watch O Brother (your favorite
at the end), a story retelling a story
told centuries before, and I told you
that was a rip-off.  You couldn’t stay
awake, so I paused the movie
and waited for you
to see the end.

I couldn’t write that story, or any
other, for a long time after
you left me, for good, two days after
I’d left you in Kentucky.

Fourteen years have drifted by
and I still haven’t told that story,
though I’ve tried.  I wrote
the first fifty-thousand words, but stopped;
the right person was not telling their story.
It was full of too much light.  It needed the darkness
to begin to understand what it means
to see the light.  Everyone thinks they do
have a story to tell, so I’m listening
for his voice.  But I only hear yours,
now, again, telling me
to tell my story.  And for the record,
it is a Sparks-like, hopeless romantic
story, telling a story that was written
centuries ago.

All I want is to know
wherever you are, you’re listening
to the sound of keys clacking—
that your ice eyes, long since closed,
can still see me, sitting in that hospital
room, voice hushed, whispering
to the sky that has opened with you
gone— and that there’s still enough
light, left, so I can read it to you.