The Art of Tetman Callis Poems the true story of the missing years

the true story of the missing years

yesterday was my daughter’s thirty-fourth birthday.
my eldest child, born while i was still in high school.

at the start of our dinner yesterday evening, my third wife and i
raised our wine glasses and drank a toast to this daughter.
while we ate we watched a movie on the magic talking box,
a movie about a businessman and a whore who fall in love.
it was sweet, and not overly unintelligent,
with a happy ending.

last night i dreamed it was thirty-four years ago
(and somewhere in this universe it is).
i was in the hospital room of the mother of my daughter
and my daughter was just born. she was still gooey;
that is, covered in the blood and other goo of the neonate.
the mother of my daughter was my girlfriend and never my wife,
though we did talk about it. her parents were in the room, too,
though their presence was not central to the plot of the dream.

though she had just been born, and i may even have seen
the last few moments of her birth, my daughter—our daughter—
had a full head of short, spiky hair, dark at the roots and
golden at the tips. and she was laughing! she was the happiest
baby you could imagine, laughing and giggling, and her mother
was laughing and smiling, too. she said to me—that is,
my girlfriend of thirty-four years ago said to me,
this is the true story of the missing years. she said,
i’m not giving her up for adoption like i did,
i’m keeping her and raising her as my own, she is
my own, you saw her come out of me. we were happy.

when i woke up this morning, i was in a part of the universe
at least thirty-four years removed from any hospital rooms
with laughing newborns and new versions of true stories.
i was back in that part of the universe where my girlfriend
never held her baby, our daughter, and neither did i;
where we gave the child up for adoption a few days after
she was born, never saw her smile, never heard her laugh,
don’t know how she may have come to wear her hair;
where she was as gone as though she had never existed,
and as ever-present as our hearts.

(Copyright 2009, 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

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