My Father

A Poem

By Melissa Sussens

My father likes to watch television.
He’ll get home, crack open a beer
and immerse himself in that flickering
neon screen until my mother has yelled,
Dinner’s ready! for the fourth time.
He likes the volume turned
noise-cancelling loud.
Nature programmes and World War II
documentaries are his favourite vice.
I guess he is equal parts awed
by the miraculous ordered beauty
of the world as he is fascinated
by the mess of humanity.
My father does not talk much.
He does not like social interaction;
that sour burden something to avoid.
Calls last only minutes before
he has shoved the phone
back at my mother to retreat
into his cave of concentration camps
and fire ants. My father can sleep
mortuary deep at any time. You’ll find him
above the sheets, shoes on, mouth open
and a book still propped half-read
on his chest. He can sleep through
dog barks and kitchen clatter.
My father retreats into a sullen den of silence
when the world crawls too close.
He runs his body passed breaking,
punishing himself for the lack of perfection,
chasing the endorphin high
so impossible to attain.
What I mean to say is that I can feel
the tonnage of the dark blanket
of shadows; the inescapable beat
of the demons on the door. I am afraid
of how like my father I am. I have his eyes.
Like him, I am overly sensitive
and vulnerable to feeling
too much. I too push myself to extinction
in pursuit of perfection. I too cannot
bring myself to eat when life becomes
unsustainable and I can feel
the heavy chain of that hungry
beast pulling me down
into its inky lair. I have not named it yet;
that field of desolation I carry within me.
My father does not name his disease.
He does not want the pills
or the therapy. He hides in the dark corners
of wordless shame. From the first moment
it reared its ugly head and looked me in the eye;
said Know this, one day I will come for you too.,
I feel I have been running from it, terrified
of what it will let me do with the lights out.
Holding the deluminator of my heart
as close as I can, I am desperately training
my brain to look the other way. Look the other way.
I am afraid to discover it has a name.