Who Was the Man I Called Daddy?


Who Was the Man I Called Daddy?



My aunt is carrying my brother and I.

The sky is orange and red and in our eyes—sunset in the tropics.


I ask Aunt why she is crying, she says,

“Your daddy has gone to heaven.”

Did he go away because I bit him,

my mark on his back?

I didn’t mean to,

but he was hurting mummy,

Who was curled,

protecting her head on the floor.


My brothers and I sit in church, next to Mummy

Our feet dangle above the floor.

The house is filled with relatives, strangers,

The conversations are whispered.


Who was daddy? I ask my grandmother.

“He was bad; he made your mother’s life hell.

It’s good he’s gone.”

Why didn’t Mummy run away?

“She tried,

but the priest made her go back.”


Who was daddy? I ask my aunt.

“He was religious, generous, and good.

He didn’t talk much,

he was like a father to me.”

But he beat Mummy,  

“Your mummy argued with him.


Who was daddy? I ask my mother.

“He was a loving father, an honest man.

He made coffee the morning he died.

I came back from the hospital,

and among the fireplace embers was the coffee,

kept warm for me.”

Do you miss him, mummy?

“No, I don’t. It’s a relief.

He was a monster

when he drank.”


Do you remember daddy?

I ask my brothers, years later.

“Of course not. Who remembers

when you are only one and two?”

I remember him, I say.

He smelt of alcohol, cigarettes, and love.

His eyes were the saddest on earth.

 I remember his warm chest and comforting arms.

I remember his gentle hands pushing my hair

out of my eyes,

touching my face when he said goodnight.


The same hands beat my mother

And I would scream and push and bite.

Who was the man I called Daddy?



Nandhini G. Natarajan


I had an article published in the Washington Post in 2016. On 5-17-21, I received notification from the Academy of the Heart and Mind that my short story,  'A Summer Awakening', has been accepted and will debut on their website on June 5, 2021. 


  1. I enjoyed reading this poem; heartbreaking, poignant, and real for far too many.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Olga! It means a lot. As this is my first published poem, I am thrilled.

  2. Beautiful written, yet powerfully tear jerking. That's not always easy to pull off, but you have done it with this most excellent piece.

    1. I really appreciate your heart-felt comment Linda! This is the first time I am publishing a poem, so I am quite excited.

    2. Super big congratulations! Keep that pen moving.

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