“A Girl With Flowers,” oil on canvas, by Charles Victor Thirion, 1877.

by Cecil Morris

I was her second-chance, replacement dad,
a do-over daddy meant to keep her safe,
to secure for her all the myriad blessings
of the two-parent family, stable home
with smiles and stories at dinner table.
I was the guardian, the baseball bat,
the lock and key, the smell of fire and fish
and river rush and redwood shade and screams,
the quiet giver of gifts and ice cream,
the squirrel’s nervous, aggressive watchfulness.
I wanted to be the mythic father
of sound advice and fondest memories,
and I tried. I did. I tried, but I failed her.
Sometime in her 20s, I blinked or looked
away and drugs found her, wrapped her in fog
and forgetfulness. In her late 30s,
when she had found her way back home, I dozed,
and cancer slipped inside and made her home,
a whole city, a sudden urban sprawl
from breast to brain, and I could only watch,
my efforts just a picket fence against
the relentless charge of marauding weeds,
all my efforts a long apology.

Cecil Morris retired after 37 years of teaching high school English. His poems have appeared in Cobalt Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Evening Street Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Talking River Review, and other literary magazines.