The Grasshopper

They say my daddy was a grasshopper,
living for the day
not giving two shakes
for tomorrow.

Daddy sure did mention tomorrow a lot.
“Lend me a dollar, Li’l Gal, I’ll pay
you back tomorrow.”
“Gimme five bucks, Son, you know
I’ll give it back tomorrow.”

Tomorrow never came.
Daddy, a grasshopper,
played into the fall,
till winter overtook him.

Wings broken, lungs filled
with the cold air of cancer
he froze, holed up in a VA hospital in Temple.
Comatose, they said.
His jaundiced skin pulled tight
across swollen cheeks,

his Cherokee pride stretched out of whack
while heavy lids slammed shut
over alcohol eyes;
rheumy, slate-blue eyes,
once sharp as the bone-handled
hunting knife he carried.

I was fifteen, but he thought I was five
and called me by my sister’s name
as I stood by his bedside
trying to read his sluggish lips
under the oxygen tent.

And I forgot the dollars
and the bucks, and tomorrow.
I remembered what he could not:
that he danced a Texas two-step
with me when I was three;

and proudly watched me dive
from limestone bluffs and
swim to him in deep water.

That he laughed a lot
when I was small,
and swore more often than not
when I was older.

I remembered his drunken artist hand
fumbling on used canvas
trying to paint the dull red pain
out of his life.

My daddy was a simple man
with simple needs:
his drink, his art, his children,
my mother.
All but the last were his to keep.

I left him there,
in the oxygen tent
and yesterday,
and I went on to tomorrow
to find a way to pay myself back
out of the trust of memories
my daddy funded.