How to Become a Father
by Lowell Murphree

First, choose
to be a father.
It’s not random.
You must choose.

Then, do your homework,
revisiting the
home from which you came,
re-living your experience

of the father, there
and not there,
what he smelled like
at the end of day

how he talked to your mother, your love and longing
for him, the way he disappointed and
embarrassed you, the way
the way the razor sounded on his face.

Remember putting your small feet into his working shoes,
slip yourself inside his skin and know that you and he
are one in the bathroom mirror of
the house where you grew up.

Revisit the future you imagined at your wedding
how everything was going to be all right now, so much easier with a partner.
Run your fingers over the certainty that together you could move mountains.
your glacial loneliness thawing, freezing, thawing.

Remember your child’s arrival filling you,
how you looked with wonder at your child’s mother,
how your child bonded you. Then taste again those bitter
battlefield waters, how living there you can go silent for days.

Breathe the sweet warmth
inside a tent with
sleeping bags pressed
into each other against the cold.

Cry out the slicing pain up
under your ribs where
only the hooked blade of a child’s
defiant departure can reach.

Survey everything
you sacrificed,
choose them, embrace them, say Yes to them!

Choose these people damaged like yourself.
over your dreams, over your grievances,
Choose your shared breath, rough skin,
and longing.

Then, if gratitude overwhelms regret, if you allow the
gnarled arms of this grown or growing child
to embrace you, and to embrace
the grown yet growing child you are,

Then your father-becoming has begun.

PAINTING: Baby by Gustav Klimt (1918).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lowell Murphree lives and writes in the Kittitas Valley near Ellensburg, Washington. He works with local and regional early learning nonprofit organizations as a grant writer, board member, and volunteer.