Author’s Note: “I was one of the first students to graduate from Howard University with an undergraduate degree in African American Studies. I learned a lot about the history of the Black family from reading books and attending conferences. This experience however didn’t explain the quiet dignity of my father. His love for his family was not an abstraction but a difficult and fragile thing I came to honor. I was grateful for my father who worked hard everyday to provide a roof over my head. Today I still struggle to understand the mystery of his strength and the power he found not to leave or close a door.”
Things My Father Told Me
Long before terms like role model and conferences
about the black family, and black masculinity
and why so many black men are incarcerated, my father
turned down the volume of the television and casually told
me how he could leave my mother, how he could be like other
men who walked out the door and never came back.
I was too young to understand what he was saying
because he was speaking to the future in me.
My father always kept his hat by the door.
There were nights when I could not sleep, when I walked
from the back of the house to the front door, when I went looking
to see if my father’s hat was still sleeping, that it had not found
its shirt, pants, shoes, or coat.
I once held my father’s hat in my hand like a crown
I could not wear. My age undeserving of its weight and not
understanding the beauty of its pain.
E. Ethelbert Miller is a literary activist and author of two memoirs and several poetry collections. He has hosted the WPFW (89.3 FM, Washington, D.C.) morning show On the Margin with E. Ethelbert Miller, and The Scholars on UDC-TV, which received a 2020 Telly Award. For ten years, he was an editor of Poet Lore, one of the oldest journals in the United States, and he was on The Writer’s Center board, in Bethesda. Miller received a D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities grant and a Congressional award in recognition of his literary activism. His latest book If God Invented Baseball (City Point Press) was awarded the 2019 Literary Award for poetry by the American Library Association’s Black Caucus.
Delmarva Review, Volume 14, published new poetry, fiction, and nonfiction from seventy authors that stood out from thousands of submissions during the year. The nonprofit review is available in print and digital editions from Amazon.com and other online booksellers, as well as from regional specialty bookstores.