My Dad Always Hated Tattoos, so I Wrote a Poem Instead – by Caitlyn Parris

I used to ask my dad what his favorite color was.
This seemed like an important question at the time.

He gave me an answer I thought was a cop out.
“I don’t have one. You need all the colors.”

I didn’t understand that, for an artist, this was true.
I thought, surely, he couldn’t like black.
Even after he was gone, I thought he couldn’t like the last color he saw
as he left this world.

Yet, maybe black was okay with him
like a long-awaited rest,
a silk curtain drawn on this act,
or a sigh.

I associate him with the color brown,
which is the color of everything at once—

the Folgers coffee he drank,
wood he carved into bears, moose, horses, and trees,
his skin in the summer, with that olive tint of the Cherokee,
stains on his gray lounge pants,
mud on the bank of Hamilton lake,
fried potatoes, the only food he ever cooked,
the Bible he read and taught from,
the forests we explored,
and the dirt he never feared touching.

Caitlyn Parris seeks to highlight the mystical within the mundane in her writing. She believes that the spiritual realm pervades and infuses the physical. When she is not writing, she enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, doing yoga, reading, cuddling with Momo the cat, and exploring with her husband Ben.

Photographer’s Note: This sepia photo represents the layers of brown images in the poem with the empty chair signifying loss of the speaker’s father. I overlayed Ecclesiastes 3 as this is the Bible verse I was reminded of when reading the poem. There is a time for everything. A time to mourn and a time to heal. In life and art, there is also a time for all colors. A time for red, a time for blue, a time for green…and also a time for brown.