“When Father Sang” by Robert Cooperman

Robert Cooperman


After the War,
my parents threw parties
to celebrate and ease the pain
of friends, relatives, and neighbors
who had died in the Argonne,
the Philippines, Midway,
or some nameless battle.

Sometime during the evening,
Dad would sing, “All the Fine
Young Men,” rendering the sadness
of the First World War
in his cracking kazoo of a tenor.
Afterwards, some of the women
dabbed away tears and eyed Dad
with more than a bit of wistfulness,
even to my young girl’s eyes.

Only Mother hated to hear him
lovingly butcher that song.
She’d order him to shut up,
But he’d finish, then raise a glass,
“To absent friends,”
while Mother boiled and shouted,
“To think I had my pick,
but married a damned stupid ass
of a braying fool everyone laughs at!”

But one time he stormed out,
tired of her insults; everyone ran
after Dad but Mother and Uncle Ian;
neither saw me under the table
while they kissed and groaned,
then pulled apart: Dad finally
convinced to return to his apartment,
his daughter, and his loving wife.

from Rattle #21, Summer 2004

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