Today I saw a father and son
stepping onto the crosswalk.
I braked and watched them pass.
Son on father’s shoulders,
headed to the park with swings.
I drove on, thinking of you
and wondered why you
never lifted me and held my legs
or brought me to the swings.
But you were not that type of father.
Once, we built a shed together.
I heard you say at a family party years later,
“Remember when Danny and I built the shed.”
But it wasn’t my brother
who cut wood and hammered nails with you.
I was bothered just a bit.
I had other memories,
like when you held my hands as we knotted my tie,
how we both looked in the mirror,
and I saw myself in your face.
You patted my shoulders.
Someone crossed the room and paused to take a picture.
It was on the table by your coffin. Your hands on mine.
Proof that we had closeness for a moment,
and that is enough.
James Mulhern’s writing has appeared in literary journals over one hundred and thirty times. In 2013, he was a Finalist for the Tuscany Prize in Catholic Fiction. In 2015, Mulhern was awarded a writing fellowship to Oxford University. That same year, a story was longlisted for the Fish Short Story Prize. In 2017, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His most recent novel, Give Them Unquiet Dreams, is a Readers’ Favorite Book Award winner, a Notable Best Indie Book of 2019, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2019, and a Red Ribbon Winner, highly recommended by The Wishing Shelf Book Awards in the United Kingdom.