You were my first imaginary friend,
my sword for attacking
pirates, the trusted keeper
of my own black magic, a large leaf
of cool and shade, my witches broom.
Your canopy protected me from the dark clouds
of my mother’s illness, the critical voices which fell
in sheets, the accusations raining from bottles of alcohol;
your fan of blackness
kept me safe in the darkness of my room.
As I grew older, the circumference of my umbrella grew,
it’s presence became the spirit of my father,
always with me night or day,
rain or shine, stubborn, stable, resilient, strong,
so quiet in his love.
I trusted the stories we wove together
into the stretched black cloth
over the ribs of his old skin and bones,
through the patient listening of his old soul.
He was the one who walked beside me
the rest of my life, a listening presence,
a forgiving voice; straight or collapsed,
always ready to spring into action.
My shield against bad weather,
my copilot in a storm,
I could hold on to him in a breeze,
fly above the clouds,
see the world through his eyes.
He was the wind at my back,
a parachute of courage,
frail yet strong,
easy to carry, always keeping me dry.
W. Roger Carlisle is a 75-year-old, semi-retired physician. He currently volunteers and works in a free medical clinic for patients living in poverty. He grew up in Oklahoma and was a history major in college. He has been writing poetry for 11 years and is a nominee for a 2021 Pushcart Prize. He is currently on a journey of returning home to better understand himself through poetry. He hopes he is becoming more humble in the process.