Tag Archives: father

The Old Brown Schwinn Blues

6 Sep

I think I’d give a lot to do over the decision:
my father’s ten speed Schwinn Sports Tourer
gone to the scrapyard for money for vacation.
The maxim, If you don’t ride it, you don’t need it,
uncluttered my life a bit, but now that old brown
Chromium alloy frame and those aluminum rims
haunt me like an unforgiven sin.

My father let me ride it so I could still get to work
after he took my driver’s license, a mercy of persuasion
like a derailleur pushing on a chain to move it.
If I could, I’d go like seventeen again,
bomb a long hill in top gear, lower chin to handlebars
and praise wind that brings tears. Instead,
I slow pedal on this one speed poem.

Father’s Esker

30 Jul

We live on an esker, you used to say,
Tossing rocks out of the garden.
Frost and the tiller brought them up.
You planted peas as early as late April,
The muddy days of sugaring done,
Snow having quit even the woods by then.
Only dying ice remained.

***

Running trails in spring at the reservoir
I find a rocky outcrop still iced over
And kneel beside the thawing, listen
Down among the roots and mosses,
Tell myself to not forget and tell the kids
How a glacial brook deposited the low rocky ridge
Where I grew up and came to know the verse
Of water in the woods. I follow a creek
Down to the lake, but do not risk
The worn and tarnished piece of silver.

***

At the cemetery in summer,
We cut away sod around your marker,
Edge it with gravel from a nearby quarry.
Look at these greens and purples!
Ages those rocks lay hid by the glacier
That ploughed this valley. (I know,
You know all this.) What I mean is,
The earth looks like a different planet when
A steady presence won’t be back forever.

The Water Oak

22 Nov

My first son and I, both of us long limbed,
just can grasp hands around the rough bosom
of the old water oak out front.  On its south side
large low branches have been removed
and rot makes dark hovels of the collar cuts.
Further up, fractured gray bones jut
desiccated among lithe green leaves.
 
By wind and years once pliant arms succumb,
dropping to the roof or lawn.  And as I gather
for a fire, I pray the long ominous bough
hung with mistletoe to endure over the corner
that is the boys’ room.  This prayer arose
even before the broken top that blew and caught,
hidden, in the last tree my logger father felled.

Prudence demands hiring a company
of men to prune danger hanging from above
though mercy blows extravagant on the breeze
and chainsaws cannot cleave that dominion.
Nearby roots of a younger oak, still growing,
are made known by a crack in the foundation
and a bow in the boys’ north bedroom wall. 

All of us who live within the province of oaks
must contend with the wind, and the creak
of limbs, as we stoop to gather sticks
and broken beauty.  All of us carry
or receive unwelcome news of doom falling
and must permit the reach and roots of trees
to subdue suddenly, or by slow degrees.

Teller

28 Dec

In books he read aloud, my father uttered charms.
Brave Sneelock, the Heffalump, farmers Boggis, Bean, and Bunce,
the characters by whom he cast a spell.
As a boy, listening, I never guessed an author
and barely parsed the teller from the tale;
all the earth and sky was in the telling—and didn’t fail.

Who told me stories first my heart is welded to
with sentences, is anchored to, as truth is to a word.
His voice turned all to flint and fire,
or else so leaf and green as to be giddy.

Mom says he still reads to her—I can see him in his chair:
lamplight on furrowed brow and legs crossed.
The sun is low; the sky in rows of ruddy men
is marching down to greet him and he begins.
His gift is words—words full of rooms
in which the wonderment of telling is the end.

Big Deal (For Nathan)

5 Apr

At thirteen, your body is writing mysteries:
fierce storms, blown fuses, dark basements.
To make themselves known, bones lengthen
beneath the pliant soil of your skin.

Tendons and muscles groan extension
to and from—a boy is gaining on manhood,
a burning engine revs and roars,
a locomotive is aiming for its destination.

As successive suns relight your lantern,
welcome them.  Dream, observe, apprehend,
trim the wick of ambition, pour the oil
of expectation—much good awaits you son!

When unsettled by faults and frailties,
or stuttered by the failure of a friend,
when the paper world is crumpling, remember,
the good King has you in his hand;

he is your shelter, find shade in him.  
He built your heart and lungs, he holds
your hope and future—silly spasms,
distractions, even glum reflections

(be they rare or common) are companions,
acknowledge them and carry on.  
Flesh is wanting, faith will be tested,
but you will never be forsaken.

You have departed, have left the station,
are merging with the tracks of men.
Let it come, and attend these days.
Sweet boy, you have begun to be a man.

Departure

23 Jul

She toddles away from the cat, then sits
as if to place herself: a receptacle

for the parting kiss.  I bend lips
to her hair and whisper, I love you,

bye bye.  I believe she sends me
to gather fresh air, to harvest blue sky;

I believe I reign in her like a king,
turn in her like a door on its hinge;

I believe she rises and remembers a tower,
bowed, with breath and prickly beard.