THE CHILDREN I’LL NEVER HAVE MAKE AN APPEARANCE
It’s a quiet Sunday morning. I’m alone,
startled to see a female figure, hear her exclaim,
He sees us, he feels us. I knew he would, eventually!
She looks over her shoulder briefly. Involuntarily,
I look past her, say, Who are you? What are you doing here?
She turns back to me. Hello, Father. I’ve missed you.
Then, a male voice, What did I tell you, Sis?
All attitude. He looks at me and says, Yo, Pops,
heads for the kitchen. What’s in the fridge?
Got any beer? I’m aghast. No, I don’t have any beer.
Hey, you’re too young to drink beer!
He says, You’re right, pauses for effect.
Some of this coffee liqueur will do.
At my alarm, he adds, Just kidding, Pops.
His smile flashes. I recognize it immediately.
The daughter I’ll never have is laughing, quietly.
Her laughter charms me. I notice their ease
with each other. Camaraderie, unforced.
No estrangement. They are close
enough in age to be peers.
“Pops” sets me on edge. I’m not too happy
with “Father,” either. My urge, to seek control.
First things first: call me ‘Dad’ or ‘Daddy,’
not ‘Father’ and definitely not ‘Pops.’
The son I’ll never have tries it out. Dad, he murmurs.
The daughter I’ll never have tries it out, too. OK, Daddy.
I soften momentarily, but have to be a hard-ass.
That’s better. You still haven’t answered my question.
What are you doing here? The son I’ll never have
speaks up; I see now that he’s older.
Well, Dad, we’re family. I mean, where else would we be?
For a moment, I’m speechless. I finally recognize them.
They are the children I’ll never have.
They have been here with me all along.
—from Rattle #81, Fall 2023
Andrew Shattuck McBride: “I write poetry to help me figure things out, to understand how I’m feeling. The love of poetry was beaten out of me pretty much before I left for college. I never dreamed I’d write any poetry. In 2009, I was struggling to write an essay; it wasn’t crystalizing. I realized that my drafts contained poetic elements, so I recast the essay as a poem. The poem was much more successful, and I was hooked.”