It shouldn’t be hard to be a good father.
I read frequently how mothers feel fathers
Get credit for the slightest accomplishments
While mothers cope with relentless scrutiny,
Endless murmurings of inadequacies,
Rising waters lapping at their ears and thoughts.
And so many accounts of awful fathers!
Callous, cruel, indifferent, and abandoning—
Silent, wrathful, drunk, beating, and molesting—
Against such a backdrop, the mild-mannered man
Who fumbles with diapers and understanding
What his children want from him seems not half-bad.
But awful fathers, like wicked stepmothers
And looming storms, form a genre of their own,
The more dreadful for being more plausible,
And I find myself trembling with the terror
Of a priori stains, original sin
Similar to what my childhood faith believed,
The mark of Cain, engendered, the mark of man—
A Bayesian calculation that, given
I‘m a father, I’m likely lesser parent,
That the best that can be expected of me
Is decency and an approximation
Of the Hippocratic oath. Don’t do much harm.
I get vertigo when my child looks at me,
Seriously, and pleads—Papa, just don’t die.
It’s hard to be a good father, I won’t lie.