but I’m tethered to Father, the air’s growing thin
— from “Lessons My Father Taught Me”
We see ghosts. They are buried inside our brain, hidden beneath hair and skin and skull. They push at the back of our eyes for every decision we make. They remind us of all our mistakes and fears, but rarely our accomplishments. Before they were ghosts, they were family; they were supposed to provide food, clothing, shelter, and hopefully comfort, but that’s not always true. Sometimes they give you bruises and nightmares and a lifetime of trying to get beyond the mental, emotional, and physical bruises.
Jaqueline Saphra’s Dad, Remember You Are Dead (Nine Arches Press) is a road map of memories formed by a father who was not a dad. This is Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” in collection form. Saphra wants us to know that it will be okay, or at least okay-ish in the long run. Because eventually the dance ends. Eventually the Father dies. And eventually, the ghosts begin to quiet.