The first time I heard the dark-haired student reading his poem, chills raced up my spine. His voice rose like a surfer’s dream wave, rolling across the room before crashing and thrashing, and ending in a sigh. Stunned, tears clouded my vision because this man understood my pain. But how could he? Twenty-Somethings haven’t had their dreams bombarded to mere fragments of memories. His words painted the story of my life. Old histories stirred, and the weight of my mistake grabbed me by the throat.
“Mom?” my daughter whispered. “Your mouth is open.”
I laughed. The collegiate coffee house wasn’t our normal spot for confrontations. Kara preferred public yelling places like the park. “Did I ever mention your father was a poet?”
The reply I expected didn’t come. She hated me for never revealing his vital statistics or CV details. I’ve never told her his last name or about his hopes and dreams. He couldn’t be allowed to pull her down, as he did me. I’ve learned too late she searched for him in the embrace of older men. Kara, a happy perennial student, was in town on her way to spring break in Florida. She’d left her old-maid mother behind with an ease I’d never expected. Phone calls from her were as rare as her emails over the four years of college. Yet, she remained an eternal sophomore. Drop, add, and repeat had been her father’s habit too.
Applause followed the end of the mesmerizing poet’s reading. His professor, the lauded Poet Laureate of our fair state, stood to give a brief summary of how much she enjoyed Liam Flynn’s poetry. She also informed us that later in the hour, the coffee crowd could request additional readings from their favorite poets. Back in the old days, poets read their work until the students left. No American-Idol like voting allowed.