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How Many Times (After You Decided to Go)

A poem

Published on:
April 22, 2019
Read time:
1 min.
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Have you heard the story of Abraham Lincoln?
The one about his son Willie,
Willie who died?
His father the president would visit his tomb in the night.
Night after night he climbed the muddy slope
to unlock Willie’s crypt
and remove his body.
For hours he cradled him,
talking to him,
touching him,
tears falling on Willie’s cold, lifeless skin.

How many times did I lay my head on your shoulder, Dad,
after you decided to go?
How many times did you tuck me into bed and sing me a song?
You’ll never know how deeply the sea churns,
when my son threads his fingers in mine,
when he burrows his head into my shoulder
and I know what you gave up.

My skin was not cold.
My body still breathed.
I was not locked in a tomb.
You didn’t have to visit me in the night.
I was still alive, Dad.

John Graeber
John Graeber is a writer living in Chattanooga, TN. He is a graduate of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, and has also contributed to Glide Magazine, Nooga.com, and Christ and Pop Culture. You can follow him on Twitter @jbgraeber.

Cover photo by Craig Whitehead.

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