Daumier’s Prodigal Son

Of course, there is surprise when I point to my

grandmother’s formidable house: “This is where I am from,”

I announce to my friend. 


Later, with just family gathered in her living room: 

marble fireplace, Victorian couch, long Persian rugs, 

antiques. I turn to my father 


“You know, Dad, I have spent my entire adult life 

surrounded by people opposite from this,” I say, 

gesturing to the soft opulence of my lineage. 

“The ex-cons, the juveniles…There is no way 

I could have done that without coming from this.” 


My dad’s countenance indicates that he understands, 

which is no small thing, believe me. 

Yale ’47, classmate of George Bush, Sr.,  

his giant John McCain billboard. 


Democrats want to give all of his money away. 


My brother wants to change the subject.

“You could have modulated,” he interjects, looking at me.  

“Just a little bit?” 


My father reaches his hand out to mine, as if it were

the most natural thing in the world, at ninety-three;  

as if the past between us didn’t matter, which it

doesn’t; as if my mother were still alive and with us,

right there, witnessing what she had always hoped for. 


He takes my hand as if art were not the most powerful

thing in the visible world. 

Bill O’Neill | THE FREEDOM OF THE IGNORED Red Mountain Press, 2017