For Dillon: A Birthday Rumination from Dad

03.08.2022

I admit it, Kiddo.

I'm not as sharp as I used to be,
and neither are my memories of you.
The effect of advancing age, I expect --
and stubborn self-protection.

That said, a few things still cut
close to the bone.
Your birthday, for example, 
March eighth, 4:44 p.m.

Those tiny, bloody fists, 
trembling, flailing, furious 
(at the loss of your cradling salty sea,
at the intrusion of the baying lupine world?)

Equally keen comes the tart memory 
of your lemon-puckered adolescent smirk,
your sour disdain sufficient to sap 
the last drop of my limited patience.

And how could I forget your appalling 
table manners, that cacophonous slur
of sibilant slurps, your "kiss my ass! 
These eats are seriously good!" attitude? 

Or the deathbed rattle of your 
unconscious gasps thirty-four years later, 
those "for god's sake, enough already" 
final sighs and moans?

These things slice sharp and true.
Others, not so much. 

And yes, sometimes there is guilt 
in this creeping forgetfulness. 
After all, what kind of father 
lets his son slip away like that?

What kind of Dad doesn't go the last mile 
for the sake of blood?
My kind, I guess. The selfish kind
(as you and your sister must've thought)?

The kind who clings to a well-rehearsed refrain: 
"I have a life, too!" and just won't let go?

But just so you know: I sometimes feel the sting of it --
enough for a good wallow in charges brought against me: 
Such a shocking lack of fatherly compassion! 
Such a breath-taking display of self-indulgence!

(Ah, thank god for self-deprecation -- 
Surely the penultimate in pre-emptive strikes!)

But, in fairness, Kiddo, what self-pleasuring 
has ever been more sating, more ratifying than, 
"Oh my god, s/he/it is so much worse than I"?  
I mean, isn't judgment the essence of human nature?

And yes, I know that all sounds exculpatory.

Nevertheless, here's the point I'd like to make --  
call it a birthday wish if you want, 
albeit a self-serving one, I'll admit:
I hope to do your memory the justice you deserve. 

And allow myself a modest measure 
in that as well.

I'd like to reconcile the limits 
of a love that couldn't save you, 
or keep you sane and safe 
in this broken-hearted world.

I'd like to entertain the notion that perhaps -- 
just perhaps -- not everyone born in love 
was meant to linger in this life, 
not everyone suited to the long haul?

And that what transpired between us -- 
all the despair, the loss, the grief --
was a lesson in the rightful margins of love, 
yours as well as mine. 

I like to think that I'm on to something here.
But it's a hard sell -- even for me; a bit too inchoate, 
too lenient, too wishful thinking? That said, Birthday Boy, 
I'll try for any port in this lingering storm.
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Seattle, February 2011 (for Dillon, 03.08.1979 — 08.02.2013)

How was I to know then—in the shadow

of that red lacquered library, in that misting rain?

How was I to know as you sprinted Spring Street

that you would never come back to me again—

not the onery, flesh and blood, authentic you,

not the smirking, hungry, always ready to argue—you?

How was I to know you were already performing

your disappearing act, already losing yourself

by milliliters and milligrams, slipping steadily

down the rabbit hole toward oblivion?

How was I to know that you were already on your way

to gone, that I would never hear you speak again

face to face that loaded word—Dad?

Tell me, how was I supposed to know all that

when I let you go that day, when I didn’t call you back?

And more to the point—why didn’t I?

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Prose Poem: Occasionally Yours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

©2021 by Jack A. Urquhart 

For Dillon (03.08.1979–08.02.2013)

Sometimes, once or twice a week,
domestic distractions fail me,
the baskets of dirty laundry
waiting to be washed, ironed,
and neatly put away,
the shelves collecting dust,
ashes of long-past conflagrations,
still banked and smoldering.
Sometimes this busy work
cannot keep you out of sight,
keep you out of mind.
So, I open the door
to the room where you reside,
step inside, pull up a chair,
and become occasionally yours. Continue reading

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Dillon by Proxy (in the Coffee Shop) prose poem by @EvryManJac

For my son, Dillon (March 8, 1979–August 2, 2013)

©2020 by Jack A. Urquhart 

Yesterday in a coffee shop,
in an incidence of unabashed affection,
I saw a man lean to plant a kiss
atop his preteen son’s head.
The kid was a sturdy chap,
mop topped, sporting baggy shorts.
He made me think of you at twelve,
and how flush-faced in your reaction
to public displays of parental ardor,
you stirred physically away,
moved by simultaneous outbreaks
of adolescent embarrassment,
(lest, God forbid, a peer had witnessed
the parental faux pas)
and a flickering, begrudging gratitude
in your ambivalent smile. Continue reading

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Steel, a prose poem by @EvryManJac

©2019 by Jack A. Urquhart

Stainless steel was the medium he favored,
forever hard and utilitarian—
the price my father paid
to make his way in the world.
And sometimes, small in his shadow,
I would watch from a distance,
as he slipped on his helmet,
as he brought fire to bear on metal,
his white-hot will cutting, bending,
shaping till a thing was forged in his image—
made to bear the weight
of heavy things.
“Don’t look at the arc flash!”
my father would admonish
when he noticed me watching.
“It will destroy your vision,” he said,
handing me thick, dark goggles
fashioned after his own.
Perhaps he thought I’d be protected
hidden behind impenetrable glass,
safe from the showering sparks
that burn and blind.
Then, turning once again,
He would take up the task,
hard, flexed, beautiful in the heat,
never noticing when, overcome by the sight,
I would sneak an unprotected glance,
too awed by his  brilliance
to resist the light.

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Returns of the Day, a prose poem by @EvryManJac

 

 

 

 

 

©2019 by Jack A. Urquhart
(for Dillon from Dad)

Today is your birthday.
You would’ve been forty years old.
Forty!  Imagine that.

Sometimes I do.

I imagine what you might’ve become,
And how you could’ve been healed,
the role I should’ve played.
I conjure the special person
whom you might’ve found,
and the life you could’ve shared,
the lives you might’ve sown.

I know there is no good in this.
And yet the mind will run wild.

It will try to imagine
what’s become of you now,
where you might be,
that fabled afterlife
of prophecy and pulpits,
tales told in tongues of men and angels.
All become as sounding brass,
now that you’ve gone beyond the noise;
now that you’ve vanished—poof!
into the great unknowable.

Only your ashes kept close bring comfort.

I am not ready to let the least of you go;
not ready to relinquish the unreal conditional You:
all the birthdays that might’ve been,
the “should haves” and “could haves”
that mark the returns of the day.

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Dillon, In No Particular Order, a prose poem by @EvryManJac

 

 

 

 

 

©2018 by Jack A. Urquhart

Here you come ‘round again
it’s five years now
since you took your leave
and still these parceled posts
arrive in the present tense
mementos of you come home again
in no particular order: Continue reading

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Red Dwarf Trope, prose poem by @EvryManJac

©2018 by Jack A. Urquhart

I don’t know much about red dwarfs,
no expert of celestial bodies here;
not an astronomer, not even an astrologer
casting about for friendly signs and symbols,
a star-lit chart to some heavenly happiness.
I only know that there are a lot of them,
and that red dwarfs are unfathomably slow,
interminably ancient, depleting their resources,
nevertheless, after a universally self-destructive pattern.

Also (not surprisingly), they lack luster.

Like most beings accelerating in space,
red dwarfs never achieve full-fledged stardom;
rather, they collapse slowly on themselves
becoming smaller and immaterial over time
(as well as exponentially more dense).
All the intimacies that fuel a friendly fusion,
are consumed in a dimly read conflagration,
until there is only a gravity-bound center—
no more at the heart of the matter than stillness,
a desolate mass in an expanse of space.
Just another black hole in the billions of us,
invisible to the naked human eye.

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Hobo’s Dream, prose poem by @EvryManJac

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hobo’s Dream
© 2018 by Jack A. Urquhart

In a hometown dream,
I tramp familiar streets,
gnarly stick thrown o’er my shoulder
wags a hobo’s satchel banner,
its colors bandana red, white, paisley.
Worn shoes flap loose soles
like extra maws at my feet.
With each step, they mouth off at me:
floppa-floppa, floppa-floppa,
a duet in ragged-ass reproach.
What does it mean, I wonder,
this dream of down-and-out dereliction?
Only that I’ve grown old, perhaps?
Is that too much to hope?
Only that I’ve grown frightfully old?

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Two Poems, @EvryManJac: There is a Bell; Little Wonder

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a Bell
©2018 by Jack A. Urquhart
(for Dillon)

There is a bell
pendulous and rusting
heavy in the tower
of my still-beating heart
Amidst the calmest hour
I can hear its faintest
steely shimmering
It calls me back
Back home to you Continue reading

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