A 4th of July story from my family, because gentleness offers its own kind of freedom.
My father told stories of dark humor and grace:
The 4th of July I when I was 17, my father was drunk.
When the parade came down Rosemont Avenue,
we were all on the porch,
all in the patch of green we called a yard,
and my father was spinning on the sidewalk.
When the police came by on horseback,
when the horses came by,
one officer got out of his saddle,
black boot gleam in the Philly sun,
to check on my father, on all of us.
The officers knew us all,
back when a neighborhood was still a neighborhood.
No one but myself noticed, somehow,
when my father took the horse by the reins.
I followed them around the back of the house,
my father stumbling, and the horse,
like all the others, following him.
He was whispering to it. Still, he could whisper
to a horse, and she would follow.
I watched him lead the horse up the wooden stairs
of the back porch, through the doorway into the kitchen.
My father stoppered the sink, filled it with cool water.
That mare bent her neck, nosed the water
in my mother’s kitchen sink, and drank,
tail swishing slow the entire time.
I stood on the top stair, hearing the Garrett Hill parade
going by on the avenue, stunned.
Not by the horse in the kitchen,
not by my father whispering about how even
a mare needs a drink on a day made for independence,
but by my father’s hand on her neck,
in her mane, gentle.
All peace to you.
Excerpted from Dora’s poem, Storyteller
©2002 Dora E. McQuaid