The Painter

It seems so unreal sitting here,
Watching the moonlight stream down,
Glistening like snowflakes frozen in time,
Moving through the large window
To paint your small apartment
In ethereal shadows.
Shadows created by the big eucalyptus tree
That stands so proudly just beyond your window.
You have fallen asleep now,
Sitting there on your old couch,
Head slightly tilted back,
Breathing soft,
One arm dangling from the arm rest,
Almost touching the old carpet;
As worn as the remnants of memories
you were telling me
Just before you fell asleep.
I begin to notice the shadows
Move across your face.
Your face changing with each flickering leaf,
As if the hand of an artist, unseen,
Using moonlight as paint and leaves as brushes,
Paints your face, changing it from one face to another.
As I stare into the flickering of your face,
I begin to wonder, which is the real face,
Which is the face that I should call father?
Is it the face that I have seen in old photographs,
A young man full of dreams,
Proudly standing next to his first car,
Lovingly holding his first daughter in his arms,
Smiling to the world full of life.
Could this be father...?
The room moves in a dreamscape of flickering light
As the unseen artist paints on, painting face after face.
There, that face! I have seen that face before;
I have seen it on men who have felt shame,
Men who have given up hope and lost their dreams;
Men who are not living but dying.
I have seen that face on you.
Could this be father...?
I move to the window and gaze up at the moon
piercing through the leaves of the eucalyptus tree;
As the unseen artist paints on, painting face after face.
My body begins to shake as I recognize faces;
The face of anger, the face of drunkenness.
I remember the fear as I hid under my bed,
Hiding from the face that screams.
The face that throws my puppy through the door,
The face that destroys the Christmas tree
The night before Christmas.
I remember the face as snakes moved in delirium,
Searching for a reality beyond this world.
Could this be fatherů?
I move back to the window
Looking out at the moon and the moon flow
streaming down through the eucalyptus tree.
I stare out into the cool darkness
And see your world,
I see you father...

© 1998 Jim Cain