MY DAD. By Jane Basil, aged 8 years and 7 months
My dad’s the best. He can do anything. He can draw and paint, make sculptures and pots,build walls and shelves, and fit doors and window frames. He can answer any question and tell you whatever you want to know. He’s the cleverest dad there is.
My dad’s quite famous and is sometimes on TV. People want to meet him, and talk to him about art. I think he likes the women that come to see him best. They come a lot.
My dad treats me well and tells me I can do whatever I like with my life. He says the only limit is my ambition. He knows I’m a girl, because everyone says that when I was born he was thrilled to have a daughter, but he lets me do the same things as him. I can help to mix concrete, and put up a course of bricks. I can knock nails in straight almost every time. Yesterday I carried tiles up a ladder, and handed them to him, so he could mend the roof, but today I’m helping my mum in the kitchen.
Dad’s in the studio side of his workroom doing stuff I can’t help him with.
My mum’s lovely and ever so kind, and cooking’s all right, but it’s for girls. I’m certain there’s been a mistake; I was meant to be a boy.
I’m ten years old.
Naked women crowd our living space,
their painted shapes pressed against framed glass,
or shaped in oak and in clay, arranged just so, on every flat space.
Shelves bend beneath the weight of fat albums
brimming with glossy breasts and hips, captured in Kodak Bromide.
In the workshop, chippings curl beside finest chisels.
Deep within an oaken block, another naked form
waits patiently to be unpeeled by her master’s eager hand.
No more than a coy shoulder is yet revealed.
Her eyes have not been created, and cannot see the devan,
where a lady lies, and the camera clicks.
My mother speaks gently of the aesthetic beauty of the fleshy curve,
making no mention of lascivious urges.
I see no trace of bitterness on her face,
or guess at any untold ache.
I’m too young to think of lipsticked kisses,
of tangled tongues or stolen intimacies.
Too young to place the scent of my father’s sins.
I think he’s the best; I bask in his praise
and revel in every task he sets me.
He seems to silently accept that I need to be a boy.
Maybe he sees that it’s better this way,
as girls are prettier than me
To my shame, my body is changing.
I can’t stem the growth, or the flow of blood and time.
All the same, I feel proud when my father suggests photographs;
he’s taken no pictures of me since I was three years old,
and even then his act was unwilling.
I choose a bulky jumper to cover up my determined bumps.
After a couple of clicks, he wants me to take it off.
He’s my father, so where’s the harm?
(A lifetime later, I still blush when I see what he has done to me. My blouse is a shiny sky blue, and he has made me pull at the hem, exposing the shape of my breasts, and look down, as if I am admiring them.)
Next, he wants me to remove my top. I love this man;
if it were possible,
I would stand naked for him, but I can’t.
I’m embarrassed, but there is something else,
something very wrong.
I try to grab it it, to find a diagnose,
but I feel dizzy.
My ears ring, making me stutter as I utter my refusal.
I’m hot, and something is dying. I can feel it in the air.
His game lost, he selects his consolation prize.
He chooses disgusting French kisses, and a grinding grope.
I see his eyelids droop as he considers the ultimate crime,
but he crushes the idea.
With a sneer he says
“I think you enjoy being kissed like that.
I think it makes you feel good,
but you’d prefer it with someone younger.”
I can’t speak for horror and lack of oxygen.
I feel nausea rising.
Grasping the door handle, I stagger
out into the fresh air and spit.
I spit and spit,
but the taste of my father’s iniquity has spread
to my gut. It has filled my lungs
and is making its way to my heart.
Without warning, war has begun.
There will be retribution for my denial of his will.
There will be revenge that he dare not steal his filthy thrill.
He will bend my childish spirit and redesign my mind.
I chose not to include images, as none would be appropriate, except the photos he took of me, and my scanner won’t let me upload them – perhaps it’s concerned for my modesty.
to be continued…
©Jane Paterson Basil