Remembering Old Paul – a poem by John Ian Bush

Part One

To Paul, my father,

I’m writing to you:


You wear the smell of cheap beer and the smoke of several dozen unfiltered cigarettes.

My father,

In my innocence I saw you as monster.


You search through trash bins,

Aching for relief from the bottle.

My father,

You run to the V.A. and you don’t find a healing.









You’re body has failed you,

Now you walk with a limp.


I’ll pity you now and I’ll mourn you later.


At night you can be heard crying loudly in your apartment.


You give shelter to junkies and pill heads,

But with me and my brother, you sit, ask questions and count your cigarettes.

My father,

You’re a sad stranger to my sister.

My father,

You soiled our front room furniture,

While mother cried at the dining room table.


I vomited in the bath room sink from nerves,

You left me there to cry over the whole mess.

My father,

I gave you shoes in the middle of a cold winter when your feet were bare.


You wear those shoes every day.


You choked my pregnant mother in your bed room,

Her head against head board,

Her face red,

Her body squirming over sheets,

I watched from doorway,

Four years old.

I prayed for God.


also red faced,

Mad eyed,

Breathing heavy,

Shouting, “Whose is it? Whose baby? Whose baby?”


Somewhere in my soul, mother is still chocking.


Somewhere in my soul, I’m still praying for God.

Part Two

We were alone in your apartment.

Your apartment nearly empty:

You’re television sat on the old water damaged coffee table in the corner,

Your DVD player lied on the worn carpet,

Your mattress sat,

No box springs,

You slept without pillow,

Wetted newspapers were your ashtrays.

The whole place was filled with a gray cloud of

Cigarette and marijuana smoke,

Everything was covered in dust.

You sat in your sad recliner, orange and red,

It sagged.

I checked your kitchen,

No food,

Cabinet bare,

No cups,

No bowls,

No plates,

No pots or pans.

Your trash can a mountain,

Of shinny tin beer cans


Tall brown bottles.

You spoke tenderly:

“I’m old now,” you said. “I’m old now and alone and I’m in pain.”

“Every day I ache!” you shirked, agony,

You cried.

“I know,” I said, “I know.”

“I think about jumping out of my window everyday!”

“I worth more to you dead than what I am alive.”

This you’ve told me since I was ten or younger.

Tears ran from eyes,

Down cheek bones,

Off chin,

To hands,

To carpet at feet.

“I’m sorry,” you said.

I held you.

Your tears,

And drool

Soaked through my shirt.

I didn’t mind.


Published by


Modernist writer and poet.