by George R. Williams, Ph.D.
I did not ask to be or not to be
a man lies with a woman.
Unfathered before I was born
like a slave who does not own a father’s name.
In my mother’s womb, I listened
but did not hear his voice,
nor sensed his touch.
Nine months sentenced to a home
that no man cared for.
Evicted too early – I
begin my search,
desperate and in need.
Duty was my deliverer.
Through the glass faces of fathers-
press and push as if to rescue me
from the sterile air of new born life.
But you’re not there.
First ride home – a cab filled with smoke.
I stare into her face to catch a glimpse of hope.
The driver asks my mother for directions
but she did not know the way home.
Another adopted me,
that father’s name was Poverty.
No disrespect, mom did the best she could.
At times she had to go on welfare,
other times she went on warfare.
Fighting hard to find a job,
to find a home, to find herself.
Do you have change for a food stamp?
Were my first steps taken toward you?
I did not know if you were you next door
or a thousand miles away.
You may have stopped for just a moment
but then you turned.
I longed to catch a glimpse of my face.
Mom never understood why I cried so much.
I kept her up through the night.
She did not know about the hole in my heart.
First fed, then clothed, then held only by women.
Blind to each man’s anger that her life was mine.
She took me there to arrest the threat
of measles, mumps, and rubella.
They saw the bruises.
Those will heal and anger will get out of jail someday
but it cost me my mother’s courage.
I have never told her about the secrets
shared with adults she trusted,
She had no time to sort through the truth.
I was too young to remember anyway- or was I?
Mom took me to Head Start.
Four years old on my first day of school.
Where are the men? Where is my mom?
The teacher dismissed us for recess.
I ran all the way home.
I cried because I was alone there.
The social worker picked me up
and took me to foster care.
In elementary I made fun of those who had fathers.
I thought it weak, I didn’t know.
He had a father and called me “bastard”.
I didn’t know what it meant,
but I know I made him bleed.
A bastard sitting in the principal’s office
angry that a man who knew
so little could do so much damage.
Bused to a school with only a few like me.
Only half taken through puberty.
Why did my father leave me?
Is it my fault?
I could try to be good .
I could even pray harder.
I once made grades that
I thought would make him proud I was his child.
In high school I found something, sports,
I knew it would bring you back,
It drove me to hear your voice, instead.
The crowd cheered until their voice became a whisper.
Hollow echos of a father’s praise
that should have welcomed me to adulthood
continued my rage.
Empty I found the need to increase
the dosage of my life’s sedatives.
While she pleaded for me to forget you,
said it didn’t matter.
Comfort in the arms of any stranger
that massaged the ache
Of not knowing
Rehearsed in my mind
unmet needs turned to hurt,
turned to anger turned to bitterness
and then a hardness
that could not be penetrated
by the pleas for mercy.
My own justice,
the world owed me,
take what I need.
Do you think it matters now?
You could have warned me.
I never knew freedom
could be taken sudden.
My life swallowed by imprisionment.
And in the cold darkness what is left
of hope and life slowly drains away.
All the inward questions turn outward
Why couldn’t you be the man
and let me be your child?
A man lies with a woman,
and I prepare to leave a child
to get my life together (that time will never come).
And to my child,
I’ve never had it easy
and yet I expect it to be for you.
So I walk away,
giving you what I never wanted as a child,
The life of an unfathered child.