Shaping Clay

Shaping Clay



Some people find love in a father's eyes.

Some find safety in his touch.

I found inexplicable violence on a hair trigger's breath.

"You need a reason to cry, boy?"

He always had one to spare.

Ever been carried to the house by your hair, Keds dangling?

Don't worry if the scalp pops up off the skull like a bubble of skin.

He can slap it back down.


"Give you some growing room!"


"Are you crying? Again?!"


Years passed, and I grew to understand him.

Sometimes I loved him.

In his eyes, under those craggy hands,

He was shaping a man.

One who could Stand Up when the time came.


A husband, a father, a man can't always be loving, emotional, or kind,

But he must always be a Man.

God, Family, and Self.

In that order.

World without end. Amen.


These are the things my father taught me,

And I will strive to teach my son.

More gently.


For him there will be no surprise slaps.

No waking on the floor and wondering what he did wrong.

No belt marks or busted lips to explain to teachers.


“I fell. Twice.”


My son will never flinch when I speak.

Never run when I rise.

Never be scared of a reason to cry.


But I’m sure I’ll scar him in other ways I never intended.


All fathers do.



Was my father perfect? No.


But neither am I.

Not by a damn sight.


So, when people call me a good man, I laugh,

But I silently thank my Father.

For his violence.

For his ever smoldering rage.

For everything I learned about reasons to cry.


My mother helped shape me,

But my father fired the clay.

Daniel Mitchell

Seduced by the book mobile at an early age, Daniel Mitchell grew up in a family composed equally of soldiers, outdoorsmen, and teachers. He worked a variety of jobs from life guard stands to loading docks, once managed the Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival, and spent some time in the oilfield building pipelines and perfecting the art of properly chosen expletives. For the last few decades he’s been a public school teacher of English and Science in Oklahoma and Alaska. Happily married and the father of two children as shockingly attractive and intelligent as their mother, he holds a BA in English, an MFA in Fiction, and is currently working on the release of his first novel, A Portion for Foxes.

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