Bitter and Laughing
SUNY Jefferson
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Bitter and Laughing

Dalton Hall

Each day I see a man broken down, limping away,
toiling at this unforgiving work.
Still soldering, climbing, crawling, shouldering copper lines made for
young men like myself to break ourselves on.
But he's not young anymore - forty-four going on seventy -
one good leg left, looking a long life of abuse in the face.
Each day we laugh, with our calloused hands and our
unkempt faces soot-stained and weary.
It's all there is to do when you are broken: laugh at this bitter world.

Each day I arrive home to a chorus of young voices yelling.
They yearn for an absent father to see all they've accomplished
in a day that's an impossibly large fraction of their lives until now.
It's all the small scraps of paper bent and torn and shredded,
colored and glued and strewn about; abused.
It's what they call art. Beauty.
It's everything they can think of in the small world they live in.

They fall from the dining room chairs,
bruises well up in the painful seconds
that their shrieks pierce the house.

Those echoing needles make a man shudder and
whimper, sending his well-kept marbles flying.
Though he is broken and bruised himself.
Really, it's nothing - what befalls these kids. They do it to themselves.
But it kills in the moment, it puts crocodile tears in curious eyes.
What’s a man like me to do with it?
Skin scarred and burnt over, sliced open,
peeled back, squeezed dry day by day.
Confronted with the fragility of a child;
juxtaposed by the cruelly twisted, still-struggling body of my
pressing on as if misfortune had never known his name?
How does a father manage to bridge the gulf
between home and career?
With drink? With walls built up?
With trust torn down, abuse reciprocated?
How do we stop ourselves from becoming those men?
By laughing at this cold and bitter world?