We each wanted our own story, my father and I;
we were talkers, him first then me,
each wanted the other to listen until his heart broke.
It didn’t matter where the story began,
or what it was about, each had a better one,
each had gone farther, seen more,
each needed – this time – to be listened to;
each was ready to kill the other to get him to shut up.
Or so it seemed to me
until I hated him. He had the advantage,
years when I didn’t exist; he knew war, marriage,
the birth of sons, decline; I knew dreams, agility,
desire, a boy’s will. It was no wonder I got out of there,
no wonder I ran for my life
like a boy running at a sunset.
Everywhere I went, sons out on bail
yapped like maniacs. And every time a man stopped me
to pour out his heart, I understood why he did this.
And the whispers in theaters,
and the soft patter after lovemaking,
and the derelict explaining himself to a building,
I understood. A boy can’t make his father listen to him,
and he can’t make his father stop talking.
Even years later, when I returned,
my father wouldn’t let me get a word in,
he had so much to say about how he missed me.
― Charlie Smith, 1994, The Essential Story