“you are my sunshine,
my only sunshine
you make me happy,
when skies are grey”

if there is one thing i remember,
it’s him on a sunday morning in the bathroom:
shaving cream and toothpaste

that was eleven years ago
papa’s voice was a deep echo
off the tiled walls of the cubicle
white-gleamed and blue-lined

that song was what i woke up to
every morning, the familiarity of
clean bedsheets
waltzing curtains
a comforting tune–
those were the days safety blanketed me
in his warm embrace.

he would step out of the bathroom
a funny face and an awkward little dance
the way his lower jaw jutted out even more
as he twisted his mouth like a circus act

and i would laugh.

sunday mornings would be a bright,
warming shelter, the house would be a
living light and he
was keeping me safe.


i remember waking up one morning
wondering where he’d gone

for years he’d been lost
somewhere i could never reach, it was
him growing old
and me growing up
and never together.

at 11 the annual gifts, tiny paintings
of windmills and disproportional height
ceased to exist. remnants of light
dimmed as the idealism
stuck to the inside of his
bedroom cupboard.

now we forget they’re still there.

in august one year he found his light
again, in someplace other than the
master bathroom. it was bigger,
brighter, bolder than anything we’d ever seen–
between the cracks of the cupboard hinges
he’d found god, and
so did we.


these days most times we talk
it’s him telling me to turn the lights off.

but don’t you, don’t you understand?
i don’t want to lose him anymore
i don’t want the blinking clock by my bedside
counting down the number
of these annual affairs we have left, i am
afraid of turning off the lights—

i do not want a phone call in the dark.

i want to be his little girl
sitting outside the bathroom, cross-legged
and bouncing on the bed
i don’t want to be the only one home
while they go off to church
but i am.
i am.

and i am afraid,
afraid of everything, then and now,
afraid of never being able to say
goodnight papa, i love you

we have to turn off the lights.

“you’ll never know, dear
how much i love you,
please don’t take
my sunshine away”


and to dear gong gong:

wherever you are now, i hope you’re happy
and i’m sorry, i’m sorry
i’m not everything you want me to be


One thought on “papa

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