by Laurie Byro

My mother would play Hank Williams sometimes
and beg the men at the bar to dance the Two Step
or some old-fashioned reel I barely knew.

I was six. I would think of my father coming
home with his empty thermos and us not there again.
I had a stomach full of fear, glasses shattering

as his hand would clear the table from the night
before. I’d plead with the bartender through eyes
like globed fruit. My mother would say

I was shy and they’d poke bony fingers at me.
If one pulled me on his lap while my mother
danced, I’d smell the stale sweat and beer. I thought

of my father hanging damp laundry on the line, stirring
up a black cast iron skillet of potatoes. On the slick
wood there was a small bowl of salt. I’d play with it,

write Daddy, or draw a heart and our initials. I promised
when I was older I’d steal away with him to Mexico.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author visiting Santa (1962).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I got this one from trying to explain to a person about my fear of bars and also to explain the helplessness Dad must have felt coming home at night and us not there. I worried after I wrote it that somehow I was “telling” more than I should have about those bad times.

Current Santa

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laurie Byro has been facilitating “Circle of Voices” poetry discussion in New Jersey libraries for over 16 years. She was named “Poet of the Decade” by the Interboard Poetry Community as her poems received awards 43 times, including 2012 Poem of the Year as judged by Toi Derricotte. She is published widely in University presses in the United States and is recently in an anthology: St. Peter’s B List: Contemporary Poems Inspired by the Saints.