*** Random Poetry Anyone? ***
Tuesday
 
Burning Dad’s Coat
November 26, 2004

I burned trash today, this dreary winter day. The flames would not start the fire. Each match fizzled out; the tissue paper started, but being damp, would not continue to burn. I thought I might need gas to get it going, but gasoline was back at the house so far away. The tiny flames struggling to burn, smoked and scorched, sputtered and glowed, and then ended their short –lived life.

My dad died when I was sixteen. He died right in front of me, or actually below me. My grandfather, dad and I were building an extension on a small horse barn one winter day in December 1962. My grandfather and I were on the roof setting runners to nail the shingles on. We had put up the frame work and runners all in one day. My dad stayed on the ground while Grandpa and I nailed them down. The pitch was a gentle slope and pretty close to the ground where we started. As we worked on the slope increased. My dad handed up a bundle of slats for us each time. The roof was three quarters done, the pitch higher, dad did the same routine but this time when he shoved the bundle up over his head, he fell down, and gasped his last words, “Oh Dad!”

We called the fire department; they came but didn’t know where to go and drove right past the barn. A car filled with young boys gawking trailed behind the fire truck and I felt like throwing rocks at the jeering smiles inside. They came to see something exciting, chasing a fire engine for the fun of it. I didn’t want them to see my dad. I was mad. But the fire engine driver never saw me running to catch his attention.

A few days after the cremation and funeral, a man from the funeral parlor brought the clothes my dad died in. I was afraid that if my mom saw them, it would bring back memories that she couldn’t control, so I decided to burn his shirt and pants. They wouldn’t burn. It was as if they had fire retardant on them, wool pants and flannel shirt. They smoldered and smoked, shriveled and scorched, but they just wouldn’t flame up and be done with it. It was hard work burning my dad’s clothes and it mad me feel dirty. But I had to do it to protect my mom. She was out for the afternoon and I wanted to get it done before she returned. It was a dark secret, a dreadful duty; the smoke smelled of flesh as the wool sizzled, shriveled and scorched. Damn it! Why won’t it just burn up and get this thing over with. I felt sick and heavy and dark inside. I felt I was a murderer. I felt caught in the shameful act of hiding evidence from a crime. I felt guilty, confused, but refused to let on when she drove up just as the job was done. I didn’t let on.
I feigned a half smile as one might expect from a girl whose dad just died, trying to be polite while grieving inside. The smoldering fire inside me seeped or leeked ugly smoke for many years until I finally laid him to rest.



      ( 11/30/2004 09:30:00 PM ) San_dra#



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