Chapter 16
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“Dear J.T.”

Book Excerpt: And What Would You Say If You Could?

Dear J.T.

Your father was the kind of a man
Who wrapped money up in baby blankets
Swaddled secrets in bodies
Bottled broken hearts in empty cans of Corona.
Your father was flicker spit,
Doused in water,
He burned himself down.
Your father was the absence felt at
Every baseball game or basketball tryout.
He was the loudest silence between
Applause that never came from him
Your father was the kind of man whose absence was his presence.
Always more ghost than skin and bone.
He was a baker, an entrepreneur,
Always on business trips
That’s why he was never around.
Your father was an engineer,
Creating the newest gadgets that sold like silver.
When he died,
They told you your father was a drug addict
Your father drank like Dionysus,
Stretched himself like Elijah,
Until he was powder
Inhaled then exhaled.

But you will remember
Elijah stretched himself to resurrect his son,
Dionysus poured wine over the body of his baby.
Your father and his absence were present
At every baseball game, every basketball tryout.
You will remember slipping into his chalk outline like a winter coat.

They will tell you that a drop of water
Extinguished the ghost of your father.
But to you, he will always be
A forest fire.

“Dear J.T.”

Copyright (c) 2019 by Haviland N.G. Whiting. All rights reserved. Born in New York and raised in Nashville, Haviland Whiting is a 2019 United States Youth Poet Laureate Ambassador and the 2018 Nashville Youth Poet Laureate. She is a senior at Harpeth Hall School. And What Would You Say If You Could? is her first published collection of poetry.