Poet’s story of an alcoholic father will bring you to tears
The following video is of poet Patrick Roche reading at Princeton University during the 2014 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational. His poem recounts his life, in reverse from present day to his birth, while living with a now dead alcoholic father.
21. My father is run over by a car.
He is passed out in the road with a blood alcohol content
4 times the legal limit.
I do not cry.
Four months later,
The nurses lose his pulse,
And I wonder whose life
Flashed before his eyes.
Rewinding VHS tapes
Old home videos
19. I haven’t brought a friend home in four years.
18. My mother sips the word “divorce”
Her mouth curls at the taste
Like it burns going down.
17. I start doing homework at Starbucks.
I have more meaningful conversations with the barista
Than with my family
16. I wait for Christmas Eve.
My brother and I usually exchange gifts to one another early
This year, he
And my father exchange blows.
My mother doesn’t go to mass.
15. I come up with the theory that my father started drinking again
Because maybe he found out I’m gay.
Like if he could make everything else blurry,
Maybe somehow I’d look straight.
15. My mother cleans up his vomit in the middle of the night
And cooks breakfast in the morning like she hasn’t lost her appetite.
15. I blame myself.
15. My brother blames everyone else.
15. My mother blames the dog.
15. Super Bowl Sunday
My father bursts through the door like an avalanche
Picking up speed and debris as he falls
Banisters, coffee tables, picture frames
I find his AA chip on the kitchen counter.
14. My father’s been sober for 10,
Maybe 11, years?
I just know
We don’t even think about it anymore.
11. Mom tells me Daddy’s “meetings” are for AA.
She asks if I know what that means.
I nod anyway.
10. My parents never drink wine at family gatherings.
All my other aunts and uncles do.
I get distracted by the TV and forget to ask why.
6. I want to be Spider-Man.
Or my dad.
They’re kinda the same.
3. I have a nightmare
The recurring one about Ursula from The Little Mermaid
So I get up
I waddle toward Mommy and Daddy’s room,
Blankie in hand,
Daddy’s standing in his underwear
Silhouetted by refrigerator light.
He raises a bottle
To his lips.
Zero. When my mother was pregnant with me,
I wonder if she hoped,
As so many mothers do,
That her baby boy would grow up to be