Auld Lang Syne

Friday, June 17, 2011


Writing a blog for an "occasion" like Fathers Day seems a little mundane, a bit predictable. There are topics in the writing world that may be more exciting. But having had a great father (deceased in 1993) and being married to a great father (thanks honey for taking on a woman with four girls!) I feel the need to make a few comments.

I just read Li-Young Lee's poem Little Father. It is sweet and a lovely tribute to a deceased father. I also re-read Roethke's My Papa's Waltz and got the same feeling of tender sadness from it as when first I read it. I recall dancing around the dining room on my dad's feet and feeling like a princess. Now that he is gone, I can say that, though he was no saintly father, he was just right. His love for me and more importantly his obvious love for and respect for my mother led me to know I could have that kind of a life as a grown-up. It's funny though that I have written so little about my father (oh yes, there is that first book, but I mean individual poems beyond the poems about his WWII service and consequent PTSD). I have written many poems about my mother, about her death, her obsessive housecleaning, and her temper. But Dad remains somewhat absent in my current poetry. Why?

I think I don't write much about my dad because in some ways he is still here, more than my mother who has only been dead since 2005. I certainly feel him around me in just about every activity I do. I certainly feel him in the car when some "driver" does a nutty on the road or when I am passing parked cars (look for the slightest opening of a door, look for some kid to run out from between the cars) I feel him around me when I do some kind of bone-headed something (Little Girl, did you think that through?) I feel him in church (Mom too there). And then there are the glitter hearts that show up in times of special celebration or in times of heavy stress or sadness. Long story short, I placed red glitter hearts in his niche at Arlington when he was inurned there. He had told me before he died that he would never really leave me. Now these hearts show up all over my life. And when times get tough, I can literally hear his voice in my heart, letting me know that I am tougher than the toughest times.

I do write a fair amount about my husband. He is a great dad to his two kids and my four (we don't really delineate his/mine kids. I say this for clarity). He is a fantastic grandfather. I see in him shreds of what kind of a man my own dad was. I laugh sometimes at how alike they are. Of course they are different too, but I see my dad in my husband and smile. My favorite poems about my husband (or for my husband) are Tea Time and Polaris (in the new book).

Here is Tea Time:

Tea Time
The china teapot brews dust
in your absence, your one cup
turned down on its lips, mine
face up, waiting for your return.
Should you come in this evening
while I’m asleep, turn the cobwebs
out of the pot and brew us some
camomile. Watch the steam rise up
from the spout while you undress
in the low light of the flame. When
the tea’s done, steeping in slow swirls
by our bed, drizzle honey into my cup
and stir me into your mouth.

This poem has a haunting quality, a tenderness. I read it now and can get back to the actual physical feelings that I had when I wrote in back in the early 90s. Funny how poems can do that. It is one of the perks we poets get: revisiting our original impulses.

So what does this blog/musing say about Fathers Day and poetry? As it turns out, it makes me want to write more about my dad. It makes me want to write a poem about how he hitchhiked 12 miles to be able to make it to my fly-ups to Girl Scouts (even though he used to mock that organization). It makes me want to write about him teaching me to read on Sundays by putting me on his lap to "read" the funny papers (we don't call them that now, too bad). So this little FD blog may be an opening for me into a group of new poems. Stay tuned.

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