Gary L. McDowell

A poem about my father
will always begin my father.
A poem about my father and I
will always begin when I was young.
My father never told me
I limped a long time
after my bones had knit,
favored one leg more
than the other, egged myself
forward, one knee knotted,
never told me my fists
were too small for fighting,
too small to be blamed
for violence: the grasp and tug
I made at my mother’s hair,
that tug to pull myself closer,
to grasp something other than air.
My father never told me
I was a body, I was a herder,
never told me that when bit
I should swear, swear,
and take showers at all hours
of the night.  My father never
told me that I inherited
his dancing thighs.
A poem about my father,
when I was young, will
always begin in October.
In October, we flew kites
in the frantic rush of winds
that never toppled us.
My hawk never had its feathers,
my father’s eagle never lost
its feathers.  Our birds, so different,
soared and never threaded
our story to another story,
never forgot who we were,
us, me and my father,
when I was young.





I'm obsessed with fathers, particularly my own. My father shows up in my manuscript, "Young Teeth," from time to time as a character, a spirit, a ghost roaming thematically, untamed. As I was assembling the manuscript, I realized I didn't have a poem that questioned the reasons behind my obsession. "Shuttlecock" started out as that poem, the one meant to answer my obsession, give it a focused voice. It ended up being just another poem about my father, but in its own twisted, illogical way, I think it actually answers more questions than I ever asked of it or of my father.