You were always a German giant to me,
accent as thick as your skin.
I would get up early in the morning
just to sit at the table with you,
stealing sips from your bitter coffee.
You smelled like tobacco and strength.
Even though I was but a little girl,
I wanted to grow up to be just like you.
You immigrated to our country without knowing the language,
and so your English will forever be lacking.
I realized there were two things you could never say:
"I am sorry" and "I love you".
I broke my back trying, like a bouncing puppy begging for a treat,
anything for you to acknowledge you were proud of me.
But you would always shake your head,
swat your arm down and banish me to bed.
You had fists of steel, and a tongue as swift as a bullet.
You loaded and shot, loaded and shot, shot me down.
After the first few times, I learned not to cry.
While my mother simply watched, without intervening,
grateful the new target of your fury was me,
You were a good man, but your were sickened with hate,
and I was a scrawny mistake,
an easy scape goat for your emotions,
and so I learned to grow a skin as thick as yours to survive your violent motions.
Do you still remember the day
I stopped calling you father, but by your first name?
I wrote you a suicide note,
unable to cope with the shame of being a girl,
and forever falling behind the standard of your world.
You burst through my room screaming,
with your palm, split my cheek,
and so I retreated, tears seeping into the wound
that would never bleed as much as my heart.
That day, I locked the door and threw away key,
vowing never to let you break me.
As I grew, I replaced you with boyfriends who abused me,
and friends who shamelessly used me.
Desperate to break free,
I finally chose to leave.
You told me you forbad me to go,
I was too young, I did not yet know
how cruel the earth would be.
And though I was shaking in fear, I stood tall and planted my feet,
meeting you eye to eye, for now I had grown to your height.
"You cannot stop me."
And I waited, patiently, for your final blow,
but it never came. Instead, you slumped,
and gushed forth with pain
for all the scars on me you had made.
I watched you cry, for the first and only time,
and tentatively wrapped my arms around your body.
You stiffened, not used to affection,
then relaxed and held me fiercely in your grasp,
all the while blubbering to me over and over
"Ich liebe dich, ich liebe dich, tut mir leid,
bitte verzeih mir."
Not knowing a word you said, but knowing you meant it,
I let you hold me close without panic my heart,
and said, "Daddy, I know, but I've got to go."
You drove me to the airport, in an aching silence,
you carried my bags to the check-in,
and walked me to security.
Before I said goodbye, I kissed you on the cheek,
stunned, you watched until I disappeared into the building.
As I journeyed on the plane,
I replayed the words you couldn't say.
I love you, I love you, I'm sorry,
please forgive me.
"Daddy" I whispered, across the sky to you
"It's okay. I already do."