Willie Smith

Darkness Light

Dad didn’t teach me shit.
Except how to wipe my ass, 
how to throw a rock, drive a nail 
and tell a Phillips from that other kind of screw. 
Dad prized his couple dozen LP’s of symphonies, 
symphonic poems, opera picks. 
On the leadup to his nightly soak, 
he would shake the house 
with – cranked – the New World Symphony, 
rattle the windows with the Ride of the Valkyries, 
clatter the crockery with Caruso arias. 
My earliest memory is: 
in the living room, fantasy sword fighting 
to the Romeo and Juliet Overture; 
then hiding in my bedroom closet 
when the music ceased, and Dad, 
through wolfing his pint, 
rampaged through the house slamming doors, 
punching holes in walls, kicking the dog, 
screaming obscenities, curses, damnations, 
threatening my mother with divorce, 
to see how she liked being penniless 
without his daytime breadwinning skills. 
Had Dad left the vodka alone, 
and done everything else about the same, 
I might have come to respect him as much 
as the music he so diligently, 
if accidentally, inspired me to love. 
The ogre, as it was, scared me nuts till age twelve; 
after which, when I began finding bottles 
all over the house, and I grew taller than him, 
I hated the son of a bitch’s bastard.
Ever since he croaked, 
over twenty years ago, 
and I put on the Brahms, the Vivaldi, the Bach, 
and I hear the mad old fuck’s rising anger sing, 
I thank him, from the bottom of my wretched heart, 
for all the light into my life he cast.   

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