Do you remember a guy that’s been
is how one of my dad’s favourite songs
starts off. I remember you telling me
that I wrote a lot about my mother
and never said a word about him.
But if I told you everything I know,
all the sordid details, like Bowie you’ll sing
Oh no, don’t say it’s true. So I’ll just say
that on my nineteenth birthday
I sent him a cupid from Trafalgar Square,
on a postcard on which I wrote I’m happy,
hope you’re happy too. And when I was 15,
he came back home and handed me
a wad of crumpled-up banknotes,
money he’d just won at the casino.
Time and again I tell myself / I’ll stay clean
tonight… Oh no, not again. I’m sure you won’t
mind if I pass on the knife episode, will you?
And on the words shrieking, hitting, kick,
Ain’t got no money, smoking, break, mess.
He wore jeans and leather, Drakkar Noir cologne,
a pompadour haircut, his father’s gold wrist watch.
Let’s dance to the song / they’re playing
on the radio, waltz to the Blue Danube on Sunday
afternoons, swing to Elvis’s “It’s now or never,”
charleston to the Platters’ “Exodus Song,” let’s sway to
I never done good things / I never done bad things.
I never had a better dance partner. I always
write about him in the past, but he’s still alive,
playing pétanque daily on a small town square
near Spain; the simplest game but in which,
with a knock of fate, the layout of the hollow
metal balls and the players’ scores can change
dramatically, the way things capsize in life.
And my mother, well, I wrote her off
but that’s only because she killed
all sense of worth in me. You said I wrote
a lot about her while never saying a word
about him. But that’s because I know
nothing about her. I think she liked
to listen to Paul Anka. I once tampered with
her tape and ruined it. She never forgave me.
I’m calling this piece “My Dad and Bowie.”
If my dad came in installments, there would be
“My Dad and Elvis,”
“My Dad and Bob Marley,”
“My Dad and Otis Redding,”
“My Dad and Diana Ross.”
Put on your red shoes. Funk to funky
but I think I’ve told you
enough about him for one poem.
Note: Phrases in italics are quoted from David Bowie’s songs “Ashes to Ashes,” and “Let’s Dance.”
(Sabine Huynh, unpublished)