"What's the world for you if you can't make it up the way you want."

-Jazz, Toni Morrison

Another question you don't know the answer to

Another question you don't know the answer to

They keep on asking me how it feels,
How does it feel? Has like everything changed completely?
Do you even feel like you? I want to punch them
In their teeth & then think how I have never punched anyone
& feel like a woos, a woosy, a pussy. I add it to the list of things
I have never done that a father probably should have already done.

Is it just completely life changing? I don’t know. Is the answer.
I have no idea, really, how it feels. I’ve never really known
What I feel & when I do people never seem to understand.
I want to say this:

It’s like when the sheet has been folded under the mattress
& you freak out, all stuck & fidgeting
& then you kick the sheet free
& you too feel free.
That’s what it’s like.

But not exactly. 

There’s what I’m supposed to say, which I try to say
But that too comes out a little wishy-washy, my face
Makes this horrible straining mask & I must
Look like the vampires from season 1 of Buffy. 

It is never being able to watch every episode again
for the first time.

Then there’s what I’m not supposed to say, which I only say
Sometimes to the corners of my pillow, or to my cat
But not my dog, she’s too judgy. 

I say it like this:

Hey Will, come over here, shhhppishhhspppishhhsppishhhshpishhh
Truth is I feel like I’ll be forever falling from a high-rise
With never enough time to catch a proper breath,
You like it behind the ear, don’t you, good boy,
Or like I’m in an elevator, trapped between floors
& I can see the feet of the people passing me by,
The same twenty pair of shoes or so, over
& over. Hey, don’t bite!

Feelings are too fickle, they prickle, then sting
While smoothing, like bare ice on a burn,
Like Strepsils on the last day of flu,
Like my mother’s breast against my cheek
As I fall asleep to her cooking tv shows.

The truth is I look at you & find it hard to say daughter
But not because you don’t feel like my daughter,
You feel like everything I am & am not
But because daughter means something I can’t fit in my hand.

When people say, soooooo, what does it feel like being a dad?
I feel physically ill, even my toes feel like puking.
Not because I am not your dad, not because I don’t feel
Like your dad, but because dad means something I cannot
Climb, means mountains & stars & solar systems

I am not that.
Don’t feel like that.
Cannot even comprehend that.

I do know that holding you, 
Curved into me
Hot on my chest
Is like I am melting
Into myself
& for the first time ever
It feels lovely. 

Patrick Holloway is a young Irish writer living and working in Brazil. Last year he won second place in the Raymond Carver Fiction Contest, was shortlisted for the Dermot Healy Poetry Prize, The Over The Edge New Writer of the Year Award for poetry, The Bath Flash Fiction Prize, and The Bath Short Story Prize. His stories and poems have been published widely in Ireland, the U.K, Australia, United States, and Brazil.

Cover photo by Steve Shreve on Unsplash

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