I wrote this poem about my uncle several months ago, but added a little to the end because he took his own life a few days ago. Some who were close to him called him “Benny,” hence the name of the poem. Rest in peace, Uncle John.


My uncle was apparently some kind of rugby star

back in the day


He was a golden child

a boy who walked on water

but whose father’s expectations

of what it means to be a man

slowly wrapped themselves around him

like ankle weights

until he was no longer atop

but under

the water


Unfortunately for my uncle

drowning was not among his father’s expectations for a man

and so

my uncle’s flailing struggle in the water

awoke the wrath of his father

A wrath enhanced by vodka

and that unlikely drink of an angry father


A wrath tempered only by geographical distance


a psychological inability to bridge that distance


His mother’s love


(as a mother’s love often

but not always

proves to be)

was his flotation device

his water wings

but it was not enough to counter the weight

and his legs were tired of kicking

tired of trying to stay afloat


When his mother died

as mothers eventually do

the golden boy had no water wings

and he let the weight drag him under

It must have been

such a relief

to finally let himself sink

but we who don’t hold his father’s expectations of what it means

to be a man

we who saw his worth

even when he wasn’t a rugby star


will miss him


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