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My Dead Father’s By-Pass


ISSUE:  Spring 1997
In high school I lied about my dead father’s death,
said he died of a heart problem. I couldn’t say
the word suicide. But it was heart trouble
that took him so low he couldn’t come back up.
He owned the ESSO on the main highway, Number One,
from New York to Florida. This was the fifties.
Southern Pines, small town south, and my father,
with a station on the highway. Then the by-pass
shut him down, traffic speeding past the local,
the beginning of the end for the slow life.

Now, my father’s in the car, and we’re driving
around Southern Pines. So much has changed
he can’t find his way. He tells me it was speed
killed him, tells me to watch it. He tells me
how his heart was with the land, not the road,
a farm boy from the country, where land, he says,
is slow like blood, the pulse of spring through
the plowed fields. So I did not lie in high school.
My dead father says I told a truth slower in coming.
I was only five. Like a by-pass, the traffic flowing
around my heart, my dead father’s death.

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