at arm’s length away from my father

by Marocharim

i was always at arm’s length away from my father.

his arm was on my shoulders.
once, inside the taxi with the smell of gin in his breath.

his hardened hands, often met my mouth
or the backs of my hands.

his calloused hands, crashing on my rear end
or the back of my neck.

at arm’s length
when he shakes my smooth hand,
asking me how i have been, how far i have gone
at arm’s length away from his cough
or the smell of menthol painkillers
and the gilded calling card he puts in my hand.

the same arms that toil in the gardens, that clean the house
the arms, the hands that go through endless work days
to feed me, to clothe me.
the same arms that once held my head high after a fight
the arms that forced me to bow and bend low when i was wrong.

and at arm’s length from the boy
he raised to be a man.

my father’s arms cradled me once
that in time, when i’m at arms length away from him
i’ll hold his hands in mine
and wait for him to let go.