I shall never see                                                                         by Cei Loofe

I was there, watching him, 
And everything that day was comfortable.
Except that day.
She was alive when the week started, 
But it is Saturday now and I am standing knee deep in plastic flowers and tombstones,
Watching him feel the air tug and push with each heavy,
Family-tree-splintering 
Breath he takes. 
I am an unwelcome guest, 
Watching him shed apple-blossom tears as she whispers into the wind.
I stand there anyway, his graft-borne, hybrid fruit.
I am a mango tree in an apple wood forest. 
I am not my father’s son.
But I am his child. 
I know this today. 

The letters written back to home spoke about the weather, 
If Vietnam would end any time soon,
How many words the kid could say, 
And that he skipped crawling altogether and just started walking. 
He gets into everything now. 
It was three years before he could write my name in one of those letters.
Seven before he could tell me he loved me. 
Almost 40 before I believed him. 

I am his offspring. He is not my kin. 
But like Christmas eve hold outs, trying to catch Santa in the act, I spied on his grief,
And I heard conversations spoken by dead relatives laid to rest, 
Too restless to get any sleep..
And I began to weep as his mother scolded him for not visiting more. 
She knew he wasn’t busy, but she understood. 
Grandpa rolled over in his grave, raised his spirited eyebrows and coughed,
And when his wife paused, distracted, said, “I am sorry, son.”

In a world where apples don’t fall far from their trees, 
What when the apple tree bears mangos? What then? 
Tropical fruit bruises easy, 
But so does fruit ripened on home soil.
It took me a long time to learn that. 
I am not his boy. 
But he is my father.
And now he is the top of his tree, 
All the upper branches have broken and blown off into folklore and myth. 
And I stood there.
Watching him learn to feel the loneliness that having no more relatives brings.
I have known that feeling for a long time.
He is not my father.
But I am here, standing knee deep in plastic flowers and tombstones, learning to
Be his son, not by bloodline, but by tree line.
See, I was never a gleam in his eye.
Never someone he planned for, 
But when mother wanted to take my life from me, 
father gave it back to me.
A young man with less than half the years I have now.
He is my father, I am his child.
And I stood there.
And he stood there, 
Grief ridged and empty and my arms reached out to him,
Mango tree branches entangling in an apple wood forest.
And everything that day wasn’t comfortable.
But it’s getting there.

Cei Loofe is more of an artist than a writer since his adventure with a catastrophic disease and injury early last year. He is slowly putting #2 lead back to paper. Loofe lives in Seward, NE with his dog, Shelly, and dislikes Okra intensely. Contact him at cei.loofe@gmail.com

November’s guest editor Ronda Miller is a former State President of Kansas Authors Club, 2018-2019. Miller has four books of poetry: Going Home: Poems from My Life, MoonStain, WaterSigns and Winds of Time. Her book, I Love the Child (2019, Kellogg Press) won first place for Children’s Books at the 2020 Kansas Author’s Club State Convention. Miller wanders The Arikaree Breaks every chance she gets.

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