Poetry

The Little Red Cabin

Anyone who knows my Dad
Knows that he cares little of material wealth
The only thing he’s ever saved up for
is a chainsaw or a generator
And he’d recently bought a new toilet

My Dad had a decent car once
But his seventeen year old niece wrecked it,
He forgave her in a snap
And eventually, he gave up on automobiles all together,
opting for his own two feet and a used bike to take
him up and down the mountain, rain or sleet

An avid backpacker for years,
he never carried a backpack made after the year 1980
Nothing new, ever
Many a day I’d trek behind him on the trail
Staring at his external frame bag,
shredding at the corners,
rusted at the buckles
Looking like more hassle than good

He didn’t know any better,
He considered the bag a luxury
Better than carrying my sleeping bag in one hand
and a plastic bag in the other
, he’d laugh
But there are newer backpacks that would be more comfortable, Dad,
with as much as you come out here…
, I would tell him
Look, mine’s just fine, okay?
I would smile at the back of his head,
watch the pots and pans tied to his bag bounce around
On his bag, he’d written the words Hare Krishna
with a sharpie pen
Why let anything get you down?
Sing Hare Krishna and your heavy, rusty backpack
will suddenly feel like a feather
Hare Krishna
My Dad rarely complained
Hare Krishna

Anyone who knows my Dad
Knows that he cares little of material wealth
Raising me, he tried to teach me that
One year for Christmas, he got me a jar of dill pickles
I couldn’t have been happier
Didn’t even know what I would’ve wanted otherwise
…within our price range
Another year coincidently we bought each other THE EXACT SAME GIFT:
yellow flashlights from RiteAid
We couldn’t have been happier

I was at the bank the other day,
Signing up for a new account,
Since I live in a new town
The banker asked if I wanted to protect my valuables
with home insurance
My eyes scanned the air in front and above me
As I tried to recall any valuables I owned
I looked at him and said:
Wow, I have no valuables. I mean, my boyfriend has a few but..
When you do accumulate some material wealth…, he went on
I stopped listening
If I were anything like my father I would never accumulate the wealth
that the banker spoke of
Gosh, I don’t think I’d want something so valuable it have to have
insurance. A car, yes, a television, a ring, no.

When you walked into my Dad’s house,
you stepped into his bedroom
a one-room cabin
a wood stove,
a window,
a bed
and eventually, a kitchen and a bathroom
There was never even a mirror

For a long time,
even when I lived there,
there wasn’t much clutter
At first, we were minimalistic,
Just starting out I guess
But as the years passed,
Twenty years or so by now,
My Dad got ahold of a TV, some VHS tapes
and things to hang on the wall:
a painting of Wyatt Earp,
a painting of a cabin my Aunt Dorothy made a long time ago
and the Van Dusen family crest inherited from my Dad’s grandpa

You could tell what meant most to my Dad when you were in his cabin
He had an altar set up on the windowsill
He had a bookshelf above the bed
On the bookshelf were 3 big, fat photo albums,
Primarily photos of me
There were also books about religion, local Native American culture, and
the book Mushrooms Demystified
Thumb-tacked to the wall was a picture of my Dad’s girlfriend, Sis
And on his bedstand a photo of me, his only child

As I slept last night, I dreamt I was looking through photo albums from my past,
Albums that do actually exist, in my home
In my dream, the photos were much more flattering than they actually are
In my dream I was bragging to some stranger
Oh and look at this one, this is when I was a cheerleader
In the photos in my dream, I was smiling bigger and prettier than I actually did
When I woke up I thought wow, what a nice dream

Later, I got a phone call from a family member who promptly told me:
Your Dad’s cabin burnt down
Howwwww? I asked
Not sure exactly, they think some “friends” who were staying there
did it when he was gone. There might’ve been an explosion,
or someone might’ve done it intentionally

Someone might’ve done it intentionally
Someone might’ve done it intentionally

Even if it was an explosion, I thought,
The explosion was probably close enough to intentional

A person’s cabin doesn’t just start on fire

When my Dad wasn’t home,
when he was down in town for the holiday for christs sake
A “friend” sabotaged the few things he owned,
His bed,
His pillow,
His NEST.

I daydream about being violent toward these people
But there will be no justice,
We can’t afford that
And they know that
I fear that next they’ll take his land
I fear they’ll build a big, concrete fence around it
That they’ll peek over the top of it when we come home
And say,
Oh, is this your place? Says who?

My Dad owns a school bus,
It was right next to the cabin
He plans to live in there
Its shelter
But it has no heat
It has no picture of Sis hanging on the wall
And it just isn’t the little red hand-built cabin
It just isn’t him
His cabin was his life

I haven’t talked to him yet,
But the family says my Dad’s being optimistic,
as usual,
somehow finding the hidden meaning in it all
I’ve got family photographs,
though not the same ones he had.
He’ll forgive the people who did it,
And they’ll do it again or something like it down the road
Sis says they might be out to kill him,
Just for fun,
Seriously

I look forward to talking to him when I do,
Hearing how he’s making lemonade out of his lemons,
Hearing why he thinks this was all meant to happen
Not that I’ll agree with him at all…

But I’ll be happy because he’s moving forward
Hey, maybe its time to finally finish that dream house he started building
Kick the rabbits out and spruce it up a little
Put a roof on it and get some homeowners insurance
Maybe put a padlock on the front door,
Start fresh

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