Watching my father come home from work

carrying his official looking leather briefcase

and wearing the usual corduroy blazer with

elbow patches up the driveway to the front door,

silent and torn, like someone working for the

government who can’t tell their family what

they do for most of the hours of their days,

I couldn’t wait to make him feel welcome and familiar.

Comparing him to a beaten pet, which, in truth,

is what I really was, and maybe we both were,

I think I wanted to hug happiness into him

the way you want to make a skittish new dog

understand they’ve finally come home, and no

longer need to tighten towards a sudden hand or

a rope, every time their body wants more than food

to run over to you and chomp an enthusiastic hello.

Of course, it goes without saying that this is also

what I really wanted for myself, since we both knew

we shared the same wound. And why wouldn’t we?

Weren’t we both assaulted by the same woman?

I remember this one time just as he was coming home,

she’d apparently had enough of our helping

one another feel loved, she locked the doors and

windows and prevented us from seeing each other,

which is about as literal an example of forced neglect

as you can get.

I remember her racing around to lock everything

and him sitting on the red picnic table with that

fancy briefcase of his looking like he’d just witnessed

the death of his whole family and couldn’t understand

why he was still here, a look that said I can’t come back

even though I want to.

Reader, it didn’t matter that I’d gotten outside just before

my mother could stop me and, from the back fence, ran

and dove into the deep end of my father. It didn’t matter

that we were safe. Neither of us were coming up from

this. Not really.

But that’s also how I know the real work of my life

isn’t poetry, or even my work with kids with special needs,

but in learning how to find love where it can’t be found

and then coming back to say I did.