Learning How To Shoot (A Poem for My Dad) / by Shanelle Gabriel

Learning How to Shoot 

Labor Day is family reunion to me

My blood runs thick with Trinidad, T&T

So when my Daddy tells me to meet him on a late August Day in Brooklyn 

I know who I'll see

Him, he pardnas and dem

This time was no different

He introduced me to a man and his son

The son eyeballed me like I was a junie mango

As he said "Wow, Mr Gabriel. Your daughter is beautiful."

My father paused to see my reaction

His father half-laughed and made an interjection 

Between the failed pick-up line & the dead air

He said, "Son,

You better watch what you say to Clyde's daughta. 

The man has a gun."

He said it just for fun but on the real

Every Mas Camp knows for a fact my dad has one.

The son's mouth was emptier then when a party was over 

As my dad put his un-ironed hands on his shoulder

"Young man, to tell you the truth,

You don't have to worry about me 

Cause I taught my daughter how to shoot."...

 

This poem goes out to the Daddies girls 

Who's father taught em to take shots of Grey Goose

Long before the legal limit

So you'd know not to

Go back to

A glass you left and walked back to

Who showed up at school when that lil boy hit you

And none of the lil boys bothered you ever again

This is for the Daddies girls

Who know the statistics

But who's experience was different

Who's father taught you to walk 

On the inside of the street cause "you aren't for sale"

Daddy's girls who moms beat their tail

When they misbehaved

But the true moment of fear came

When "I'ma tell your father" was said

Daddies girls who fed 

A grown man imaginary cookies on a Rainbow Brite tea set

Who gambled in card games with them

Peppermints to make bets.

 

See, my mommy taught me to be nurturing

How to love everyone else outside myself

But my dad taught me not think it vain to give myself compliments

How to balance the emotional me with thinking logically

This goes out to all the girls

Who still call their daddies at half past 3

When their car won't start after they've left the party

This is for the Daddies girls

Who've gone to school with their hair in a lopsided ponytail 

Cause clips and bows only made him more confused

Daddies girls taught to flash firecracker laughter to light up a room

Taught how to create the perfect blend of fear and admiration

Taught how to shoot vodka without the chaser

Dads who taught that the man should be the one to chase ya

Who raised their daughters like sheltered sons

Made them appreciate old westerns and the NBA

Who told em to go for their MBA even thought they only made it past the 12th grade

 

This poem goes out to the Daddies girls 

Who's dad taught em to take shots with sarcasm

Told em they inherited handguns for eyes

Scalpels for smiles

Could form a masterpiece with a kiss 

Or let those same lips be a man's demise

Who told them it's okay to cry

But only the first time cause it shouldn't happen again

Kryptonite to new boyfriends

Didn't scare them all away

Only the ones who's casual attire and career goals didn't make sense

This is for the Daddies girls

Who were taught how to shoot free-throws

Who are trained parallel-parking pros

Can quote his unconventional wisdom like

“You know, 85% of people in this world are stupid...Look, look, there another one goes.”

or “Give it your best and there’s no limit to where you can go.”

 

This is for the Daddies girls

Who know that a woman scorned can make a bitter mother

Mothers who think their failed relationship

Should end the one dads have with their kids

Wishing they could suck out his DNA 

Like it was poison and erase any trace of lineage in their kid's face

This is for Daddy's girls

Who's father may not have stayed

Maybe even played the heck out of their Mom

But while he didn't give her the love and respect she was due

He gave it to you

At the end of the day

He showed you what a man should and shouldn't do

Daddies girls who know that perfection 

Isn't part of the human equation

That it isn't about getting all the answers right

And even if he messed up more than a few times

You appreciate that he took the time before he closed his eyes

To try.

To my daddy/ It seems the older I get the more I think we look like/ although I was born high yellow/ and you're more like quarter to midnight./ Skin rough like Chaguaramas beach./ Voice vibrates like steel pan melodies./ Sandpaper skin singing within the crevices of the present me./ I swear I'll never grow too old for nicknames and I'll still open the car door for you from the inside./ I never believed in your infallibility./ Maybe that's why/ you're still untarnished in my eyes./ I love you for all you've taught me./ You taught me to shoot but on most occasions,/ to put away my gun/ Taught me how to wine,/ how to get my way without wining,/ how to be wined and dined./ The first man to tell me I was beautiful and to look at me in awe./ All these dudes get their lines from you,/ So it takes more than speeches of silk spilling from slick jaws to get me to pause./ You set the bar high for anyone desiring to take your place as the man in my life./ And whoever it is that I deem worthy to bring/ will be a reflection of you,/ in honor of you./ He'll be my prince charming/ but you'll still be my King/ I'm a daddy's girl,/ gunning down stories of all black men being absent or in jail./ Firing at tales of failed fathers and dead-beat males/Your love for me/ my love for you is living proof/ That there are still a few strong women out there/ who's dad's aim in life was to teach their daughters how to shoot.