A jovial drunk, my father…
to his sobriety—
not so unusual in his early cups
from other alcoholics I have known:
careful elocution and
high-brow multisyllabics to distract the audience
from that slow slip-slide into inebriation.
But as each occasion wore on,
the liquor let trip from his tongue
every gimcrack archaism hoarded by lexophiles,
so much so that I sometimes wondered
if he was speaking English or
some long-lost language known only
to cabalists of peculiar arts.
On and on his articulation unraveled
for also-tipsy companions until I—
cornered with a sippy cup of warm cider
that tasted suspiciously of cough syrup—
doubted his elaborate syntax
corresponded to any human dialect,
living or dead.
Yet still he soliloquized,
cadences and inflections consistent
as they were mysterious,
as if he recited a labyrinthine spell
no less enchanting for being impenetrable.
And never did he wax so loquacious
as the night of my sixteenth birthday,
when he drank so profoundly and orated
with such unintelligible conviction that,
holding court before the fireplace,
first his loafered feet then all the way up
to his gesticulating cigarette,
my father transformed to
one long helix of opaque smoke
that slipped up the chimney
and into the star-flecked night.
Those who ran outside insist
he dissipated amidst the Milky Way
but that explanation is neither officially
nor socially acceptable—
no bureaucratically endorsed acronym exists,
for child abandonment via sublimation.
Thus I simply say,
“My father and I are estranged.”
art by By Humberto Antonio Muniz – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22851878