It was her father’s fault of course,
He had cared for her too much.
He’d tendered love as a comfort
His affection an antidote,
And she believed him and came to
Depend on its sway.
He, her father, was a generous man with no money.
Well-educated and unwilling,
He refused to convert
And enlist as a worshiper of things.
How can you spend your life alone in a car, he asked.
Days, weeks, months trapped in solitary confinement,
Commute used to mean benefiting from a lesser sentence, he told her,
A judge would give you credit for picking up litter,
Or apologizing to your primary school teachers
For all the terrible things you'd done,
Then a month off your jail time, he explained,
His palms up, his shoulders in a shrug.
Now look at our roads, he said,
Everyone round shouldered and condemned,
In a cage, stones for eyes, barely breathing.
On the tram I meet people, I love the public square,
We are meant to mingle he said,
We need each other to make a life.
And so when her mother died,
Unexpected and sudden, what death isn’t really,
He took on simple work close to home.
He wanted her to know he was near, that’s all.
He understood the comfort young children find in
The literal sense of things and so,
He sat with her through every lunch hour and,
They ate soup and sandwiches together each day.
This saved her mind.
She knew that now.
He, her father, was a chronic enabler of love.
In the fall they would laze on a park bench,
Yellow birch leaves like fashion stickers all over her rain boots,
And chat quietly as they tossed unfrozen frozen peas on to the pigeons.
On these afternoons he retold her stories about her mother,
His childhood, her grandparents and
The hard times,
When even a nickel could ignite the most outlandish of dreams.
Can you imagine, he would say,
Only five cents and we all thought our luck had finally changed.
He was an explainer and a tolerant,
He told her the sun rose up each day
Only to search for one new idea and that
She had a magnificent brain and
One day it would be her idea the sun would shine bright on.
He told her the purpose of her life,
Was to think pure thoughts,
Small decisions that would help save the world, he said,
Contributions often so small no one might notice,
But each one would make a difference.
He said science called this the butterfly effect,
She loved the name.
He was thoughtful and fair
And so everything he stood for was impossible to duplicate.
He never forgot her birthday,
The dolls came in battered boxes
With crumpled corners and broken plastic windows.
Weathered cardboard coffins,
With magic marker scribbled on the back,
Gruff autographs like ‘return to vendor’ or ‘write-off,’
Words she paid no attention to,
Even when she began to understand what words can mean.
Her birthday cake- always a single slice never a round,
She had never seen her name in icing,
But why would that matter,
When she could wake up early in late November
And see all three of her names in elaborate calligraphy,
Etched into the frost of the front room windows
For every passerby to see
His all saint’s grin,
He told her every day of her life
That he saved the first smile of each day for her,
A smile he hid in his pocket, or under her pillow, behind her ear.
Her kingdom for a year was two card board castles in the living room,
Where, with official pageantry, (her father had a scroll),
She was crowned the Grand Duchess of Washer and Dryer,
Her word was law for the day.
He surrounded her palace,
With brightly coloured bowls and
Casserole dishes filled with water,
A protective moat into which he placed plastic animals,
Whereby he proclaimed in a court room voice,
All would become flying horses and loyal dragons
If danger ever dared to mock and threaten.
So when he died she was ready.
But as an adult she told everyone she was.
After the funeral she dressed the same,
She ate, she worked,
She offered her ****** Mary smile generously to small children,
She said please and thank-you in a clear voice,
And gave a dollar to every street person she could find.
She was near him when he passed.
She understood the comfort old men find
In the literal sense of things,
And for weeks she slept shotgun
In the chair by his bed.
She wanted to be near, that's all, and
She fed him soup, no sandwich, every day.
We all die he told her only moments before his turn.
Our only calm is our end, he said in a whisper as weak as
Do not regret, he cautioned her,
My life was mad and complete, he promised,
You were my good idea and the sun rewarded me,
He said in a voice so soft
She wanted to lay her head on it and drift away.
Then he smiled his first smile of the day,
Pressed a plastic dragon into her hand,