Dad I Got

Rick Belden’s poetry is brave, raw, shocking – and real.  “Dad I Got,” speaks to the conflicted Dad I Gotemotions around being a boy with an abusive, emotionally absent father.

Dad I Got

by Rick Belden

he works
five six seven days a week
one two three jobs a week
rotating shifts
8 to 4
4 to 12
12 to 8
he works in a factory hates his job takes it out on us.

he chokes me when I want to see my friends
he leaves me behind
I try to catch him I break my leg
he yells at me for hands in pockets
humiliates me constantly in front of
friends family neighbors strangers
he’s angry + distant he scares me
he grabs my arm at the store + pulls me
away from the girl I like
he tries to beat me down he
tells me I’m flawed + worthless
every chance he gets.

he yells at me when we go fishing
he yells at me when we go to church
he yells at me when we play ball
he yells at me when we’re on vacation
he yells at me when I try to help him
build the houses + fix the cars.

he tells me I throw like a girl
he tells me I’m not good enough
he tells me I’m no good
he tells me I’ll never do it
he tells me I’ll never amount to anything
he tells me I missed
a spot here + a spot here + a spot here.

he works hard to pay the bills
he fights with his mother father brother sister
he treats my mom like property
her family her friends like enemies
he builds a house for us to live in
he fights with the neighbors till we have to move
he builds another house
he gets mad at all the red lights
he thinks the world’s against him.

he tells me not to laugh
he tells me not to cry
he has a flyswatter behind the sun visor to
keep us in line while he’s driving
he has no idea who I am
shows no interest in finding out.

he scrapes my cheeks with sandpaper whiskers
won’t show me how to shave
won’t help me pick out my first car
won’t help me with college he buys
another snowmobile instead
he tells me he doesn’t care what happens to me
if I go to texas.

he complains a lot when I ask for help then
does it all himself
he burps a lot
he yells at me at the dinner table
in restaurants
until I get sick
he takes us to church because mom makes him do it
he loans me money for car insurance once
he uses anything he does for me
against me later on.

he works at night sleeps during the day
tells us to shut up when
we’re playing in the back yard
he can build anything
he can fix anything
he does the best he can
he hurts me.

he doesn’t trust me
he spies on me
he kicks my ass across the yard in front of my friends
because I’m late
he threatens to cut off my hair + mustache
while I sleep
he slaps the soles of my feet to
wake me up in the morning.

he goes to night school to learn a trade
he says everybody else is wrong
he acts like he doesn’t want me
he acts like I’m in the way
he acts like I don’t matter
he acts like he doesn’t like me.

I love him
I need him
I hate him
I miss him.

this is the dad I got.

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Rick Belden is the author of Iron Man Family Outing: Poems about Transition into a More Conscious Manhood, a book of poetry that is widely used in the United States and internationally by therapists, counselors, and men’s groups as an aid in the exploration of masculine psychology and men’s issues, and as a resource for men who grew up in dysfunctional, abusive, or neglectful family systems.

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