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Two Poems by Margaret Bauer

Daddy’s Handkerchief

“Wait,” he’d say, reaching into his pocket,
“let me get my hanky. I collect those.”
Out he’d pull an ironed, white square
and wipe my tears.
Then he’d unfold it into a rectangle.
“Now blow,” he’d order, moving the white cloth
to cover my nose.

And I would blow,
sometimes comforted to know
my tears would be safely saved
inside his breast pocket,
more often annoyed that he
wasn’t taking my hurt seriously.

“You are too blessed
to be depressed”
he admonished
decades later,
He could not bear
my pain or perhaps
his inability
to wipe it away.

Is that why he left
without saying good-bye?
He knew I was on my way
for Father’s Day.

I carry my own handkerchief now,
and finding him gone
and everyone else so strong,
I wipe and blow
and wipe and blow.

Daddy’s Song

                  for my sisters and brothers

You are my sunshine . . .
                                           I sing.

every night that first year
(second, third . . . )
inexplicably and randomly
bursting into song,

to Andrew’s amusement.

                                    You make me happy when skies are gray

Is it Daddy, singing a lullaby
I will recognize from so many car rides?
Is he saying good night—
or the good-bye he did not say?

Sometimes just a line pops out,

                                     You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you

other times a whole verse—

The other night dear, as I lay sleeping,
I dreamed I held you in my arms,
But when I woke, dear, I was mistaken,
So I hung my head and I cried.

But he is there, in my dreams,
and there is no surprise in the meeting. *
I am a child again.
Of course he is there.

But then I wake.

                                     Please don’t take my sunshine away.

* This italicized line is from “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” by Katherine Anne Porter. The indented italicized lines are from the song “You Are My Sunshine” by former Louisiana Gov. Jimmie Davis, first recorded in 1939.

A native of South Louisiana, Margaret Donovan Bauer is the Rives Chair of Southern Literature and Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. In 2017, she received the North Carolina Award for Literature for her two decades as editor of the North Carolina Literary Review. She is also the author of four books on Southern writers, most recently A Study of Scarletts: Scarlett O’Hara’s Literary Daughters, but since that book, she has turned to writing a memoir about growing up in Deep South Louisiana. Read her short story previously published in Deep South here.

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