Tales He Told When I Was Ten
Standing tall behind his drug counter
Dad told his customers stories:
He’d speak of a man who knew better than taking
The pills that his doctor prescribed–and died;
stories concerning miraculous healings
of those who followed, religiously, regimens
Dad wrote out. Listening there,
behind the counter, I seemed to see
those healthy faces grinning at him
in gratitude, for all of us
At bed times, Dad told me tales of the war:
how he traveled on ships across mountainous seas
making medicines, curing the soldiers and sailors
the ship picked up all over the world.
He never spoke of being in battle;
but said instead that a shark ate his hair
when he leaned too far over a railing
to wish that fish a good day. I
I heard about Lollapalooza the hippo,
who befriended him once in an African port:
how the hippo taught him to swim underwater—
(which I’d dreamed of doing, though afraid in the pool).
He told me that reading his books late in bed
had exploded a light bulb and burned down his house;
and how sitting too close to his old TV
had gradually ruined his eyes.
I stopped doing both those things,
because I believed him.
Dad told me the story—confidentially, of course—
of how seeing my mother for the very first time
made him lose his balance and fall down the stairs;
how it never hurt one bit;
how the year they got married, late in Fall,
he moved (without telling her) all their belongings
from Oakland to Columbus, to be close to her family.
Scratching his shiny scalp, he admitted
she wasn’t happy at first—but he thought
she’d forgiven him ages ago. I said
I believed him. [more]
He told me the pills he took all day
made him smarter and stronger—he would live forever.
And I believed him.