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Ode to My Dad

Ron Epstein tells me
he’s heading for Kentucky
to Gethsemani for a
Buddhist Catholic dialogue
and that reminds me of my Dad
who used to go on retreats
at Gethsemani
the Kentucky Catholic monastery
where Thomas Merton used to live
Dad was a member of the
Holy Name Society
at St. Pius X Church
in the Hikes Point/Bon Air
neighborhood of Louisville
the Holy Name Society
was a men’s group at the church
they used to get together to
drink beer and do work
around the church and school grounds
Father Fultz was pastor of St. Pius X
in those days old Fr. Fultz
who used to call all the ladies Grandma
no matter how old they were
and when things went wrong said
“I shoulda been a plumber.”
Fr. Fultz never tried to scare us with
mortal sins
and eternal damnation
like some of the nuns did
those nuns
the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth
were a combat outfit
one day I saw a small nun
Sister Mary Nicholas
punch out one of the big 8th grade boys
he was chewing tobacco
until her repeated blows to his stomach
made him swallow it
boy he was sick then
and of course they had their
Blues Brothers yardsticks
for palm and knuckle rapping
Fr. Fultz was much gentler
and so was my Dad
a good man if there ever was one
he and my Mom sang in the Sunday choir
and sang all the time at home
we were a happy family
we lived on Rio Rita Avenue
and Mom’s name was Rita
Dad used to sing
“Rio Rita
life is sweeta
when you are near.”

Dad was personnel manager
for Frankfort Distillery
out in Shively
he was on their bowling team
I still remember the beautiful
Four Roses bowling shirt
he used to wear
and going with him to
Thelmal Lanes in Shively
he threw a 16-pound ball
Mother had her own ball too
it was lighter
maybe 12 or 14 pounds

Dad coming home from work
was a big event every day
when we were real little
all of us kids
Phil Danny Barby Brian
used to hide behind the curtains
“Daddy’s coming home.”
“Let’s hide.”
“Do you see him yet?”
“There he is.”
we’d hide
where we knew he could find us
he’d say “Now where is everybody?
Where could those kids be?”
and we’d giggle
then he’d find us and squeeze us
it was great to know Dad loved us
was always coming home to us
in the evenings we’d wrestle on the floor
he was big and strong
but he never hurt us
he knew what he was doing
on Sunday morning we’d all
lie in bed together
and he’d read us the funny papers
Beetle Bailey by Mort Walker
Blondie by Chic Young
L’il Abner by Al Capp
and all the rest

all these memories
because Ron Epstein
happened to mention
the old Trappist monastery
out near Bardstown
Dad told us
when he went there
with the other members
of the Holy Name Society
they wouldn’t talk for two days
we found that hard to believe
but he said it was true
and he’d bring home jams and jellies
made by the monks at Gethsemane

the Holy Name Society
would get together again
the next Saturday
to get the parish softball field
ready for the season
“Hit ‘em where they ain’t,”
Dad would say
and then they’d drink beer


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Daniel BarthDaniel Barth's poetry, fiction, essays and reviews have appeared in a wide range of publications including Ant Farm, Beat Scene, Dharma Beat, Jazz Times, Redwood Coast Review, Review of Contemporary Fiction, Western American Literature, Whole Earth Review, Wild Duck Review and Zam Bomba!. He is the author of Ukiah Haiku: Journal of a Year (Goin' Prose Press, 1996), Coyote Haiku (Secret Goldfish Press, 2004), and Fast Women Beautiful: Zen Beat Baseball Poems (Tenacity Press, 2008) and a contributor to Hitching: Tales from the Byways and Superhighways (Wakefield Press, 1995).

Daniel was born and reared in Louisville, Kentucky. He holds a B. A. in Anthropology from Duke University. He lives near Ukiah, California with his wife Mary and their son Nate. In addition to writing, he works as a teacher and librarian at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Talmage, California. In March of 2012 he was named poet laureate of Ukiah for a two-year term, 2012-2014. He is currently working on a new book of poems and short prose pieces.

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