Button Poetry - My Father Is an Oyster lyrics
In New Orleans, seafood is as much a part of life
as changing tides. I was raised between shrimp
etoufee and fried catfish, learned to walk on crab
legs, & was baptized in a pot of crawfish before
I ever knew what one was. Still, I was always
disgusted by the oysters. But my dad loved them,
said that the zinc in the meat was good for your
hair and that if I had seen the hairlines of the men
on my mama's side of the family—I'd better start
eating up. I would later learn that an oyster's pearls
are formed from foreign parasites that have breached
the boundaries of its shell. To protect itself from
the danger the oyster cocoons the substance in coats
of calcium until the very thing that was trying to
destroy it becomes the thing that makes it most beautiful.
Mother nature has a funny way of teaching us. Last
summer while visiting home, I went to check on
my dad to see if he knew the score of the game.
When I opened the door to his bedroom, I saw him
lying on the ground like a broken promise genuflecting
in front of a prayer. My father held his stomach,
as if he had been stabbed by the very person entrusted
to protect him. Betrayal has never been so silent.
There is no treason like that of your own body turning
against itself. Benedict Arnold with a bayonet in your
bloodstream, Judas kissing your kidneys goodbye
for 30 pieces of silver. Chronic kidney disease is deep
sea diving with no oxygen. Drowning underwater
waiting for a transplant to bring you back to the surface.
But my father is an oyster, wears a shell hardened by
growing up in a place where the expectations never rose
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above low tide. He was raised by a coral reef of a mother,
who had echo of an unborn ocean on her breath. Taught
him that when the waves of this world try to wear
you down, it's okay, we are all a little bit weathered.
If an oyster can turn a parasite into a pearl than it is no
surprise that my father can turn a kidney into calligraphy.
When I was thirteen and he was first diagnosed he wrote
me a 15-page letter saying that if anything happened,
I had to be ready to become the man of the house.
Clint, though it hasn't always
looked like it I've always put
God first. I know you complain
because Clinton Ward Smith, III
makes it sound like you're the heir
to a British monarchy, but never
doubt you are a king. Understand
that I gave you your grandfather's
name because the most sacred things
I have ever known come in trinities.
Clint, love you mother like a stained
gla** window in a war zone. She can
be both shield & shard, both weapon
& protection. Treat every woman like
you would want a man to treat your
sister. This ocean already has enough
sharks. Clint, don't be another shark.
My father is an oyster. He clasp down tightly on
the things that he loves the most – his family &
his God. He has a calcium-encrusted heart cradled
tightly in his chest, bears scars worn from waves
that have tried to erode him of this world.
My father is an oyster. I pray that when he is pulled
from this ocean, those who live above the surface
see the brilliance of his pearls.