First Man

My father is 61 years old

Usually when I tell people about this they look at me as though I’m crazy

I’m only 16 years old, I would understand why


See, in the eyes of many, a 61-year-old man is too old

Too cranky

Too much complaining

Less helpful

Too much peeing

One more mouth to feed

Constant flow of needs


But that is not my dad


My father is strong

He can still carry me – 125 whopping pounds of flabby fat – on his wide back of pure muscle

He teaches me boxing

And his strikes are so fast and his jabs so hard that for a minute I forget that he’s four years away from being a legal senior citizen

But nowadays

He often complains about his work, about the piles of papers his co-workers give him which aren’t even his to worry about

He gets home past 7:00 when it used to be at 5:30

And when I ask him to spar with me he no longer agrees


My father is smart, in fact he is the most intelligent person I know

When I was little, he was my human dictionary – when I saw a word I didn’t recognize, it was to him I turned

He is the root of my fiery love for literature

Poetry, and stories, wouldn’t have flowed from my brain to my hands if it weren’t for him

But it breaks my heart because nowadays

Nowadays, he’s the one who asks me what words mean

He sees my shelves overflowing with books and he only says, “I used to love to read”

Now the closest thing he has to novels are the never-ending documents he drowns under at his work


My dad is the bravest man I know

He tells me stories of when he was in the army

A young lieutenant who served for over 20 years, half of which he spent on the frontlines

Faded sepia-toned photos of him in uniform with medals pinned to his chest – glorious, beaming, proud

But nowadays

Nowadays he can only watch military operations on YouTube

I know this because I can hear him watching them before he goes to sleep

And at times it annoys me because I’m trying to sleep too but I forget that he’s just reminiscing

Because that’s all that he can do


My dad is the kindest person I know

He prays for everyone in the world – literally

He says yes to parties he doesn’t want to attend

He can relate to at least one person in any film he watches

When I start to hear sobbing, I just know it’s the sound of him relating

He always makes sure I have money to the point of him having none in his wallet as long as I do

Nowadays though,

It’s getting harder to make both ends meet

He’s strong but he’s the only one who works in the family

But he doesn’t stop – ever

Yet he’s so tired


There are times when it’s just me, and the silence, at home

When my mind swerves from one thought to another like a careless drunk driver at night in the rain

And I begin overthinking

What if today is the day my dad finally breaks?


I can’t live without my dad

Not out of necessity or for fear of being alone or some other selfish reason that people can’t live without people

For me, it’s that I can’t bear the thought of knowing that my dad will no longer be

To know that I will never hear his laughter again,

Hear his constant questions every time I’m watching something on TV,

His incessantly asking me “How was your day?” and “How’s school?” and “Do you need money?”,

His hard scolding whenever I do something wrong,

To know that there will never be anyone else who’ll love the world the way he does,

To care so much for others that he neglects himself

It all pours out of me like an avalanche, a train wreck of dark thoughts, a rollercoaster unbuckling from the tracks mid-ride, an ambulance wailing just a few seconds too late –

To realize that my dad will one day lay cold and lifeless and to know that I didn’t love him enough

It feels like I fail him everyday

I don’t mean my snide remarks, I don’t mean to snap at him, I don’t mean to seem unappreciative and heartless, selfish and uncaring

I don’t deserve a father like him, and that’s why he’s so important to me

And I love him more than I ever will love myself


So if anyone asks, “What’s the one thing you can’t live without?”

I’ll show them a photo of the strongest, smartest, bravest, and most loving man in all the world

And when they ask me, “Who’s he?”

I’ll say, “That is the first man I ever loved.”

This poem is about: 
My family


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