What It Was: A Poem by P.T. Tyx

By P.T. Tyx

What It Was
_____for Paul C. Tyx, 2016

Tyx 2Here we go
I remember my dad saying, as his arms drooped by his sides,
while my sister and I ran to greet him at
his entering the house upon his return from work.
I hugged one leg. Peggy embraced the other.
He walked to our mom with us as weights, holding tightly.
My father, so used to slugging his way through life, was unarmed.

What is it now
he would say as I tugged at his trousers.
Pick me up, I’d request.
Up I’d go on his shoulders, my little hands holding his forehead.
I felt as large as my love for him.

Dad was unprepared for us.
Peggy, full of gaiety and dancing,
and me, Buffalo Bill Jr. wearing his big shoes as cowboy boots.
Poverty, city mean streets, and selfish friends has taught him to be on guard.
He learned that he could not please the nuns who were his teachers,
but eighth grade graduation only introduced him to hard, dull labor
in factories and coarse women and heavy-drinking men.
War confirmed his worst beliefs.
At his clerical job in peacetime, younger bosses demeaned him, asserting
he used his eraser more than the lead in his pencils.
Tyx 1A janitor had shown him where to toss his first babies,
still-born twins,
into the hospital incinerator.

What is it
he muttered as I plopped on top of his sprawled body.
On Sundays, he sometimes found a spot of daylight,
squared on the living room carpet, and
stretched himself into it like a weary lion, belly-down.
My little self mimicked his napping posture until I pulled myself to sniff his hair.
I love the smell of you, I’d say.
I warmed upon the confused silence of sunshine beneath me.

P.T. Tyx lives with his wife near Greenville, Ohio. Both of the photographs used with this poem are from the author’s childhood.

Both photographs are from the poet’s personal collection. The first is of his father and was taken in 1977. The second is of the poet, his father, and his sister, and was taken New Year’s Eve, 1955.

One comment

  1. This is my favorite thing you’ve written, Paul. You capture your bittersweet memories of your father so well here, and that final scene–and final lines–are such a perfect symbol for the mix of emotions that seemed to define your father’s life and personality. Thanks for sharing this with us.


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