On The Anniversary of His Death

No amount of empathy
could help me understand
the storm inside my father

Even in his death, thoughts
cloud my writing, his presence
preserved in prose…

(Even though it’s been fifteen years, my father’s essence remains strong – sometimes taunting, sometimes inspiring, always mysterious.)


Birch Trees (with recording)

Strains of Tijuana Brass flood the yard
while father on bended knee tends
his garden, tiers of stone edged rows
encircling a trio of birch trees.

Father points out birches on Sunday
drives, as if the bark is sacred, leaves
whispering a secret I cannot hear –
stirs in me an indefinable longing.

My husband planted birch trees
there amongst the flower beds –
how the leaves shimmer in sunlight,
how my heart quickens, bittersweet.

Imagine Father seated there, mellow
as he was in old age, angst expended,
tyranny of parenting set aside – understand
love unexpressed dwells in birch trees.

(Watercolour image by yours truly)

Soul Confusion

I was your pink girl universe,
but you, Two Spirit,
asked me to look up,
full faith, feel sky lift
your language world big,
I, little and like morning, gentle,
always open –
one sister soul
making life a play.

(Friday is magnetic poetry.  Play online.  Image from personal collection – available on Society6 – KnutsonKreations.)


I search for father
in this pain, recall
limbs wrapped,
how he cried out
relief beyond reach

judged his suffering
as emotional –
a karmic penalty
for a life of tyranny –
compassion lapsed.

Now, I fight with legs
that will not settle,
arms that ache to bone,
moments inconsolable
spiralling into moodiness

seems I misunderstood –
overlooked the possibility
of genetics – pain compounded
by the guilt of impotence

curse my failure
to express sympathy,
offer comfort – the habit
of retracting into defensiveness
enacted till his death –

softness not a component
of the barriers that stood
between us…

When We Meet In Heaven, Dad (2)

I picture it: a convention
of like minds, congregating,
sharing, aspiring to betterment.

A conference of healing,
for the newly deceased –
like limbo, only educational.

Surprised to find you there –
you who seldom attended
any of my performances.

I’ll stifle the discomfort,
suppress doubt, cherish
the moment, except that

I know you – will catch
the gist of your duplicity,
your self-serving motivations

feel the rage intact, intent
on one final confrontation,
to track you down, and decry

your brick-wall tendencies,
the cruelty of absenting
yourself from a child’s needs

will check the registry –
surely there is one in Heaven –
likely not find you listed there

the alias you used in life,
now redundant – will find
you under that moniker

I refused to ever pronounce;
will stand at the door of your chamber
inflated righteousness ready

to denounce you for eternity,
only… revelation will strike,
decades of wrath disintegrating

into sorrow, and as you open
that door, hesitant to receive me,
I’ll declare:  “I am sorry, Dad.

I accept you just as you are,
I just don’t want any more
distance between us.”

(When We Meet in Heaven, Dad originally appeared April, 2017.  I am submitting a revised edition here for Manic Mondays 3 Way Prompt:  dirge.  A response to this poem, from my Father’s point of view, is posted on One Woman’s Quest II.)

Debonair and Deprived

“Is that you father?”
acquaintances would ask –
voices deep and dreamy.

Particular about his dress,
meticulous in his grooming,
Dad’s eyes sparkled oceans

his dark, wavy curls
framing a strong face,
his body tall and muscled.

I’d tilt my head sideways,
incredulous at this response,
then realize they’d fallen

for his mask – carefully
debonair, he exuded charm,
a well-rehearsed routine.

It’s his birthday today –
would be, you see, but
Dad passed over long ago.

Tortured, he was, relieved
to be done with a life
so defined by deprivation

for masculinity was only
a shell – housed a restless
spirit, a woman never seen

forced into seclusion by
a society – a family – who
could not/ would not see.

He may be free, but the tragedy
lingers – awareness now so raw
of all that might have been.

“Yes, that it my father,”
I might have said, adding
“A beautiful soul trapped inside.”

(My father was born June 14, 1924, and struggled all his life with his “secret”.  He turned to the Navy commandos at the age of 15, hoping to “beat” his impulses, and then alcohol to numb the pain.  We bore the brunt of his suffering, and were never able to cross the bridge to understanding. I have no pictures of my father, and only this one image of myself as a teen.  We looked very much alike.)

Fandango’s word of the day is debonair.

Daily Addiction is deprive.

A Poem in Three Voices

Page three! Father would say
whenever she opened mouth
to speak – inevitable tale waiting

I just want you to hear me,
I remember feeling, to know
that my words have meaning

You get all your needs met;
it’s why I work so hard, now
don’t bother me, get along…

She learned to hold things in,
to refrain from long passages,
practiced needing no one.

Dear diary, why does everyone
hate me? What have I done,
and why do I feel so alone …?

You hide away in that room
of yours, ignoring your mother
and me; what’s wrong with you?

 She shrugs, picks up her purse
and heads out the door, school
is almost finished, then freedom.

Left home today; so happy to be
away; hope my roommates like
me, hope I don’t ruin it for us.

Just called to see if you’re okay,
your mother and I worry; let
us know if you need anything…

But she’d stop needing long ago –
shut down in the formative years,
when rejection defined esteem.

(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a poem in three voices.)



Snapdragons transport me
back to father’s gardens –
the pleasure of pinching
delicate flower mouths

forbidden as I was, tiny
feet banished from tiers
of ordered colours, how
he worshipped those rows

hours spent on knees,
as if in prayer, attention
lavished on nurturing
growth while I shrivelled

at the sidelines, longed
to dig beside him, sully
my hands and share
a passion, ignorant of

an inner drive to weed
out imperfections, felt
only walls of separation,
the coldness of perfection

and in my wilful way,
rebelled against taboos,
tiptoed through the soil
and pinched snapdragons.



Father told me I had no problems –
didn’t even know what problems were,
so I tucked away grief, pretended,
mastered the art of suppression –
what did I matter, after all?

Failed to grasp the underlying message –
ignored the extent of his personal pain,
translated indifference into selfish agendas,
set up walls to protect myself, against him,
projecting rejection onto others.

Too late now, I understand, hurt for the
distance created by misunderstandings,
recognize with deep sorrow that our timing
was out of rhythm – society unable to fathom
the secrets that we held – unnecessary burdens

Wonder if I will ever unravel the deceit,
unwrap the loss of self, the shame, recover
a sense of self-worth that allows for acceptance
of problems without self-reproach, or guilt;
will gain the capacity for far-reaching forgiveness.