forgiving my father

Lucille Clifton

it is friday. we have come
to the paying of the bills.
all week you have stood in my dreams
like a ghost, asking for more time
but today is payday, payday old man;
my mother’s hand opens in her early grave
and i hold it out like a good daughter.

there is no more time for you. there will
never be time enough daddy daddy old lecher
old liar. i wish you were rich so i could take it all
and give the lady what she was due
but you were the son of a needy father,
the father of a needy son;
you gave her all you had
which was nothing. you have already given her
all you had.

you are the pocket that was going to open
and come up empty any friday.
you were each other’s bad bargain, not mine.
daddy old pauper old prisoner, old dead man
what am i doing here collecting?
you lie side by side in debtors’ boxes
and no accounting will open them up.

Last updated December 20, 2022