letters to my father

Letter One

Dear Papa:
The upper trailer windows were cranked wide open in the early early morning hours. So wide that during the night spiders moved into the spaces between the panes and the screens, and spun webs to catch all our future nightmares. Outside was a soft black: obscured and mysterious. The back porch light worked tirelessly to dimly light patches of ground close enough to it, pushing back the shadows gently around the trailer. Milo and I were sleeping side by side, away in dreams and without any disturbance; The world asleep around us. I awoke out of the dreamy darkness to a haze of the foggy light, the world still, and an immediate feeling someone was outside. Waiting. Papa not something but someone, outside and impressing upon me a mighty energy. How did I know? I could not say, then or now. I felt my mind attempt to catch up to the urgent knowing in my chest that was ferociously searching for, for… before I knew exactly what I sought. I propped the weight of my leaden body up on one stiff arm, rubbed my dilated eyes that lagged behind to process my immediate surroundings. All was still: no movements, no sounds, no visible reasons for jolting me out of a deep sleep. Except this profound feeling in my chest. My head continued turning from window to window; My heart searched for who had put out the call. I lay back down discovering no one discernible. But for long moments after, I was wide awake feeling the unique force within my soul striking bells, ringing out songs I knew not from a language learned but birthed with me into the world–urging me, pleading me, to go outside and meet who was waiting.

In the morning I was told: Royce Clampitt is dead. You were gone just like that: in four words delivered from a bleak face. In a fraction of a second, the outcome of the life I had in mind was burned to ceremonial ash. And I knew it was you outside, waiting.

I waited too long Papa. Within three days time they had cleaned out and packed up your room, before I was able to move through my fog of grief and travel across town. I wanted to lie down flat on your bed and become the seams, woven into your sweat and dreams. I wanted to stretch my arms wide, as wide as you were, to feel for any intricate element of the mattress you molded: the worn spots or valleys where your body lay and asked for sleep. I would stay there for a long while and seep effortlessly into your past grief. I wanted to sit in the chair you died in. I wanted to press my knees against my chest, look to the ceiling and ponder if in those last moments you ever even once opened your eyes. I wanted to sit in the recliner, pull back my head and extend my jaw down until my mouth gaped open, hold it there until it hurt and breathe in a breath you never did. Then try to never move again. I wanted to run my palms over the wood side table collecting the dust and other remnants of you on my skin, and think of all the cribbage games we wouldn’t play. I wanted to smell your ashtray full of smoked cigarettes and touch each empty beer can on your bedside table. I wanted to curl up on the rugs of your floor, inspect with love the little burned black circles from dropped lit cigarettes, and weep. I wanted to lock myself in your room, sit alone in your office rolling chair and watch your old western movies, until I finished them all. I wanted to touch the spine of each book in every one of your piles and know the exact page you left off on, of the last book you would ever start. I wanted to be alone with anything left, any lingering energy present in your room; to be in the room as it was when you were still in it and of this world as my father.

I wanted to stay a lifetime in the room my Papa died in and they did not care to ask. They had done a “favor” for me. I was led outside to your garage to find what was left of your belongings neatly boxed and stacked alongside one wall, not taking up too much space. All the characteristics you never were in life.



About jjj

writer and poet. student and queer, they/them pronouns. 26 and learning. living in southern Oregon, with their partner and two dogs.
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