My Father's Green Flannel Shirt by Andrea Hollander Budy
He wore it when he mowed the grass, walked the dog,
lounged with the Sunday papers. Whether
it was his favorite, I'm not sure, the way
I'm not sure if he cared for me
more than for my brother. When I was a child,
he would pull me aside sometimes
and tell me a secret – perhaps about his sister
or one of the brothers he wasn't speaking to,
a few times about my mother, whom I knew he loved –
but always something that nagged at him.
Afterwards he would tell me not to tell anyone,
then walk away whistling the way
Alec Guinness, in The Bridge on the River Kwai,
walked away whistling when they let him out
of solitary confinement, as if he knew
something wonderful and important
and no one could scare it out of him.
Sometimes at dinner, my father would whistle
that same tune. And wink at me.
How I loved being in cahoots with him. Loved
feeling chosen, being the one selected to receive.
I took each secret into me and kept it.
"My Father's Green Flannel Shirt" by Andrea Hollander Budy from Woman in the Painting. © Autumn House Press, 2006.