Category Archives: father

Seventeen

Seventeen

It’s a whirlwind season in my home life. Graduations, college preparation, combing through old pictures, casting off items we forget we had and certainly will never use again.  Everyone is drifting – not in a bad way.  But we are definitely coming un-stuck from each other.  There is nothing to prepare you for this kind of pulling apart.  Everything tastes bittersweet.

In the middle of all of this, I wrote a villanelle – about change, and love, and seeing the ones we love with new eyes. For my father, for Father’s Day.

 

Seventeen

Suddenly, he won’t talk to me:
He’s become a steel curtain.
It’s just the way I used to be

with my father, too, half angry,
half amused at the old cretin.
Suddenly, he won’t talk to me

about even simple things. We
are strangers more than next-of-kin.
It’s just the way I used to be –

I remember the agony
of this age – the man-trap he’s in.
Suddenly, he won’t talk to me

except on days he needs money,
and really, is that such a sin?
It’s just the way I used to be!

I don’t take it personally –
this is a game a dad can’t win.
Suddenly, he won’t talk to me –
it’s just the way I used to be.

 

flowers

One of my best childhood memories is of my dad buying flowers for my mother.  He loved to do it.  He taught me many things with his words, but some things he simply taught by his actions.  Thanks, dad, you old romantic…

written for Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides.

 

flowers

I brought you roses from the street seller
at the corner of archway road just like
my dad used to buy flowers for my mum

always to mark a special occasion
sometimes for absolutely no reason
except that she loved fragrance and colour

and maybe I’m hoping you are like her
though I don’t realize it yet, maybe
I’m just trying to be as good as him

 

Spaghetti

My dad is one of the best writers I know.  He taught me about literary style and choice of words, persuaded me to read Orwell and sat with me as I hashed over early drafts of essays.  It was a labour of love, and no little patience, for him.  He’s my hero!   I hope a little of his example will spill over to the next generation as well.  I’m trying, anyway…

 

Spaghetti

We’re sitting in the kitchen,
pouring over his latest essay.
I jump up from time to time
to stir the spaghetti, then flop
back down again at the small table.
It’s like this, son, I say, sagely.
The English language may be
compared to a well-stocked pantry.

A lot of words hang out on the
lower shelves, or in big barrels.
These are the staples, your common
or garden prepositions, nouns,
proper names, infinitives,
the odd gerund. You gotta use these
just to get through the day, they
won’t do you much harm and
for the most part they are
pretty good for you.

But then look a little further and
the shelves get more interesting.
Some words are sweet, which can be
pleasant in moderation, but I’ll bet
you know people who overdo it and
end up breathlessly waving their
hands up and down and popping
the same bubble-gum over and over.
Maybe one of them is a cheerleader.

Some words are poison. The obvious
ones aren’t so bad, because you know
right away just from the look of them;
but others are slow-acting carcinogens.
Steer clear, OK? I don’t care how much
they tell you words can’t hurt. They can.

Then there are the exaggerations,
the steroids of our mother tongue, which
pump up one’s discourse to impossibly
inflated states, while also exposing
one to secret ridicule, to say nothing
of awkward back hair at some future date
(metaphorically speaking, of course).
Play it cool. Don’t overstate your case, OK?

Finally, there is the F-word. Keep this one
handy at all times, but use it with care.
It is the essence of anise – just one drop
will infuse an entire pot of sauce.
I glance over at the stove. It is the
perfect complement to so many
situations, and there are times
when it is the only word that will do.
Anyone who tells you otherwise
is either a liar, or too scared to live
a little. Trust me. Now get lost,
Hemmingway, I’ve got work to do.

The spaghetti sauce boils over.
He goes back to his desk, sifting through
the elements of style, leaving me
alone with my thoughts, and the anise.

 

My old man

To be honest, it’s not clear how you got this job.
Maybe you applied, maybe it just happened
to you like a piano falling out of a third story
window, jingling down black keys of destiny
on your incipient male-pattern baldness.

You try and learn how to love. For a guy that’s not
easy. Mostly all you have known is movies with
explosions and lots of cleavage. And now, all of a
sudden, you’re watching a tiny chest rising and falling,
speechless before one of the wonders of the world.

Over the years, you walk the wire like you own dad did.
Sternly setting your deckchair at strategic points on the
beach, sometimes for well-considered reasons, sometimes
just to prove that you are still bigger and wiser, and
that you do in fact exist and matter somehow in the universe.

But meanwhile there’s the constant undertow. The cloud
of unknowing pierced by unforgiving questions. The realization
that maybe you don’t understand at all. That all you have
succeeded in becoming is a carbon copy of your own father.
And in a way, you don’t mind. As long as the kid is okay.

But then comes the night. And you’re lying awake, listening.
Listening for the front door to open and close. Listening
for voices to tell you that actually nothing is wrong. Listening
to the vast silence. Listening to your baby crying, because
his whole body hurts and he doesn’t understand why.

Written for a prompt over at the wonderful Poetic Bloomings site.

Salt

(For my father)

It’s time to mow the grass for the first time
This spring – the tousled dandelion heads
Bobbing above great ragged waves of green.
Next to the street, the lawn is struggling,
Burned under mounds of salt thrown down by plows
Last winter. Nothing can live with that much salt.

My father told me once how they used salt
In the ancient world, as fertilizer,
Spreading it on the fields to make crops grow.
Too much salt in one place damaged the soil,
Scorched beyond use. But when spread thin it was
Golden! Life and death in each farmer’s hands.

The good book says: you are salt for the earth.
And I think of how we all get piled up
In great toxic mounds of long-lost goodness.
We poison our own back yards, when we could
Be scooped up and scattered to the fresh winds
Helping wheat and weeds grow up together.

Written originally for a prompt at the wonderful Poetic Bloomings site.

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