"In this extraordinary collection, I found a letter written on the day my son was conceived. His moment to choose earth, ours to choose heaven. In the travel between dialogues, between the lessons in these letters, maybe our past gets revealed as students floating in the other's eye." — Edwin Torres

Father Faith

by Traci L. Gourdine

I

On Sundays my father would wake the house
With God. A voice louder than any rock station
Found all of us
Beneath our covers.
How gracious is it really
How should a child come
To love God if his name is screamed
Blistering their sleep?

II

This is Sunday
After the comics are read
Three sisters have their hair braided tight
Tight along the tender of their scalp
Dressed in rough heavy tights, cramped patent leather with bows
All three of us prepped for sitting
In a row. Matching in red coats with white trim
Legs swinging in a pew
Not a single one of us understood why
We dressed so for someone
Everyone feared

III

Daddy tried a different place
This time my mother wouldn’t come
In this place the words were lilting
Like songs wanting to be sung
Hebrew. Temple. And now
Church on Saturdays
With Daddy upstairs in the place
Of dark coats and slope shouldered quiet men
Wearing sad faces so different than
The tight-lipped mean from before

I recall their long white scarves
And the scrolls carefully unfurled
Gently passed from hand to hand
Men humming a language we could hear
Through the pipes where we took our
Hebrew lessons and learned
Dreidel songs

IV

When enough funerals played out
Caskets led by mules, limousines jammed with flowers
A New Orleans trumpeter far behind playing blues
When enough women wore black on TV
Mourning with Coretta so still in her blackness

When a child saluted the passing of the dead
And his mother reeled him in
Mother in black, Jackie in black
Her small daughter staring at a shadow
Tracing the ground
When Malcolm was shot dead in a church
Amongst the faithful and devoted
Under the knowing gaze of a god
All of us kids wanted the cartoons to come back

When all of it came down to that, Daddy stopped
Trying to find where this god lived
Stopped trying to hunt Him down
Like God was a relative we needed
To meet
Stopped hunting for him in buildings
In languages
In songs and within days of the week
He let up after that.

My father just stayed home
Planted himself before the TV and watched
The mouth of Cronkite
Sure and daily as any other prayer

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