presque dire

My Dad and Bowie

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My Dad and Bowie


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.


(Tel Aviv, 12 February 2015)


Note: Phrases in italics are quoted from David Bowie’s songs “Ashes to Ashes,” and “Let’s Dance.”
I wrote this poem in February 2015, about a year before David Bowie passed away. I'm publishing it here, on my website, a few days after his death, in memoriam. 

Je suis condamnée à écrire pour presque dire.
I am doomed to write and never quite say it.

Copyright © Sabine Huynh 2011-2016
Sauf indication contraitre, textes et photographies © Sabine Huynh