My dad finally died today after false starts,
finished for real, unlike his frequent, fabricated
lies about his own death that often followed
Mom and me into hiding. Eyes stuffed with fear,
we would huddle together, try to fold
into ourselves and disappear, but
he always thrust back into our lives, bloodshot
eyes blistering our faces with fear.
Today, his drooping, muscular neck is dead,
and Mom and I wear survival like corsages
of self-congratulation.

Ghost faces of his shenanigans drift
through my mind again like bad clouds,
chill me like December’s sad icicles.
Now we own white truth of relief,
and can safely reminisce about the red-haired
hooker who ripped him from breast pocket
to buttocks until his flesh gapped
like a grim fish gill. We can cite the time
he called from a phonebooth outside Sam’s
bar doused in cheap neon, claimed blackjack
beatings had obliterated his brain. I recall,
too, the mid-morning crash that had allegedly
flipped his ’48 Ford onto its back
and crushed his chest like a ripe cantaloupe,
compressed ribs like a bundle of kindling.

One Sunday afternoon, he smeared toothpaste
on a sofa cushion as evidence
of seepage from a brain concussion.
Such deception should have blackened his heart,
not catapulted him to a respectable, checkered-flag

Now, there will be a lifelong silence
in the sound of his name. His death is
a tame detail that doesn’t touch me anymore.

When the actual voice of death crawled
out of the phone, an electronic breath print
affirming demise, nullifying his former deaths,
I did not slump. I turned the page in the newspaper
I’d been reading, lay on the living room floor,
propped on an elbow, finally free of a dad who,
like a hungry wolf, hovered over us
ready to sink fangs into our haunted blood.