For Dad
They were red
And paisley-patterned
Except on Sundays 
Then, they were white
They were used as
Snot rags
Blood blotters
Tear collectors
Dirt erasers
Sweat swipers
And funny adornments 
For two creative kids
New and stiff
Or soft, tattered, and worn
An abundance of handkerchiefs
Could be found in his dresser drawers
And always, one in his pocket
To us, those swaths of fabric
Seemed almost magical
But, the magic was in the man 
Who carried them
It was his work-worn and calloused hands
That reached deep into pockets
To administer the remedies
And carried those rags 
Not just for himself –
But for those he loved

I can still recall
Tearing my hand on the gate
The blood, the tears
And the red handkerchief
That made them all disappear

The tie that bound our family together
Was a paisley-red cloth