portion of the artwork for Kathleen Farragher Braverman's essay

Kathleen Farragher Braverman

Papa never said goodbye without telling me he loved me. He always had to end on a word of some kind. When my brother Ian and I were kids—from the time our family split—one of Papa’s favorite goodbyes for the week was both an illusion of and an allusion to his grandeur:

“You are my greatest poems,” he would claim.

And for a time this warmed my chubby little heart. I was his. If he painted and devoured and sang, and spoke weird words to the night, and the river, and the trees, then so would I. I still do.

I don’t remember when his calling me his poem first rang false. Yet, at some surly age, to counter his persistently gregarious manner, my groans of cynical disgust would roll forth with matching eyes.

Beyond disbelief, I resented his claims on my personage. As if I was just another one of his teeming creations, something he imbued with his life force, a part of his collection of millions of words.

But then he would hug me goodbye—a hug beyond words and worth. He would hold me into his winter-bear chest and belly with his bear arms and bear hands, and there wasn’t a more pure moment.

A selfless moment of love beyond the sonorous, quick tongue and the eternally roving voice of his “I.” Beyond his wide, sullied river visions, or the epic origins of shining, mica-laden New York City sidewalks, beyond his unwashed and scarlet-tipped images of whores and his fantastic purple histories, beyond his mismatched lovers and left or lost family, even beyond his dreams of the ore-rich reaches of Mars—beyond all that was a love just for his children: the same love he would show to my young son, Delaware. A primal and wordless love he would have claimed as embryonic from the strong hands of his Grandfather Tom. Even if he ended with words on his lips.

Grandfather Tom
Sean Farragher

I stumble through the twigs
to reach your grave
I need some talk,
some bits of string,
some knots untied

I remember our home—
the dog I rode when three,
the daffodils, crocus,
forsythia, mock-orange—

blue bachelor’s-buttons
strung through your lapel

Each June I see again
the red porch
with the paint and oil smell
I think of lemons

I loved your green swinging couch

As I sit among the graves
the rains begin
then I was eight
standing by the Chesterfields
near your favorite chair

Often I would watch you
walk down our hill
newspaper under arm,
and then,
the snow began
and we sled and sled
until wet to our drawers

we fell home
and you made some tea
smoked a cigarette,
and then
we wrestled

and you read to me of Mars
or Saturn’s men
until I yawned asleep—
your white hair
blurred by the motions
of your fingers tucking
me under Grandma’s quilt

As I leave your grave
the rain stops,
and we walk up that hill
on your last day.
Then the bus came,
took you away,
and you waved smiles through the glass,
and the roar of the bus stopped,
and we could not touch

I am never able to walk down that hill
and not see you with your newspaper
under your arm—
and the silence each Christmas
is sad even when the family gathers
with new children

no one is there to play card for pennies,
and no one has your vision; and for a time
even I didn’t want to remember that there
were no strong hands to help steer my wagon

through the distance
and its chill.

Table of Contents

FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 40 | Spring 2013