Bonus Cut Poetry: “ode to my father” By Ariel Kaplowitz

This is Bonus Cut Poetry, a series that features original poems by Bonus Cut staff, artists and YOU! In this series, our mission is to bring people together in poetry, share stories and display wonderful artistic pieces. If you would like to have your poems in the next Bonus Cut Poetry installment, just email us at

This installment features guest-writer Ariel Kaplowitz.

ode to my father
By: Ariel Kaplowitz

When I was thirteen, going to boy-girl parties, my father
peered his light brown eyes into my dark ones. “Call me when you need me
to pick you up,” he said. “Anywhere.”
I burned and yawned, trying to pull as far as I could from his gaze.
I never called, always finding rides with my friend’s moms who were
much cooler than my dad, with his old t-shirts and cereal jokes and booming
voice that sang along to Bruce Springsteen in front of God and everyone.

I didn’t realize I had listened to him until five years later, when I
burrowed into the Andes for a summer to teach 5th grade. Before I left,
my father bursted with pride. He called my students “underprivileged”
and packed me a medicine bag as big as my suitcase.

Teaching was harder than I’d expected. The mountains,
curving in the light, were harsh and bleak, and the dust
filled my lungs and brain. Each night, I’d try to sleep on the bare cement
floor of my house, and, when no one was looking,
would shiver and cringe. I missed home, the warm breath of spring,
the click and flap of English, the comfort of being loved.
I grew so homesick I couldn’t eat. My stomach snarled
and tugged, and I would gnaw on Pepto-Bismol every morning,
the pink chalk perpetually lingering behind my teeth.

A few weeks in, insomnia grabbed me by the shoulders.
Each orange night, I would listen to tinny
music on headphones and force myself to think a happy thought.
What I always pictured was this: the drive home from the airport.
I didn’t imagine the beach, or my gurgling, kiss-giving
family, or my boyfriend, who I adored.
I would picture the flatness of Michigan from the passenger window,
the softness of the car, the lullaby of crunching corn chips.
I would picture my hands empty in my lap,
and beside me, my father, finally driving me home.

When my plane landed in Detroit, I all but flew
down the hallways where I knew he’d be waiting
in those faded light-wash blue jeans
and his glasses on their red rope around his neck.
The moment of rounding the corner and knowing
my dad would be there was the most sprinkling, gravel-crunching,
walloping feeling. My heart expanded exponentially,
so that it filled my entire body to my fingernails.
There he stood, in that old flannel shirt, like I knew he’d be.
I flung myself at him like a bumblebee and cried
freely, full of the densest tears I’ve ever known.
He felt so solid, hugging me back.
The car ride home was just as I pictured it,
smooth and quiet and infinite. We hardly talked,
just sat in the red minivan together and watched
Michigan roll by behind us.

Some people say that when you die, every memory flashes
before your eyes. I would exchange all that burst and glitter
if I could just replay this one:
my father, the car, and endless, glorious miles.

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