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The Father I Never Had

Tara Dole

I lost the father I never had.

Not all at once, but inevitably—

running through my fingers like sand

away from the insistence of my small hand.

It’s hard to mourn the unknown.

He was the only father I’d seen,

yet words of love seemed to burn

his tongue, paternal warmth I couldn’t earn.

When he was home, I clung to fiction,

hid in loose threads, away from his voice—

always on edge from that turbulence

that caused our feuds’ permanence.

No more violent words.

I am far without his poisoned sphere—

I know now what a father ought be;

it was never him, that is clear.

After I set myself free,

I saw the depth of a father’s love

in the lives of friends, strangers, peers—

and I mourned the father I never had.

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