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.

Watch below:

Full transcript:


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

Tumbling, stumbling.

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 don’t.

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,

I pause.

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

Just like

His father.