“Relics”: A Poem for My Father
Those of you who follow this blog know this is about the time I disappear for a while. As the school year winds down, the tasks pile up, and something gives. It has been a particularly difficult spring–I can say without exaggeration that it has been the single most stressful year I have ever experienced as an educator. And is most often the case, virtually none of the stress has been caused by my students. There are some things to share about what has been happening, but all in good time. In spite of spring time habit of neglecting my blog, there has been much going on with my writing: in March, I was invited to submit my very first guest blogging assignment, and I did two readings in April. The guest blog post should see publication soon, and one of the readings I did in April is partly the genesis of this post.
I have written about my father before, and the influence he had upon me as an author. I have also told the story about how he stood up for me against an irrational principal–galvanizing in me a lifelong skepticism for authority figures. February is the anniversary of both my father’s birth (the 21st) and his death (the 9th). As a result, it is a difficult month, because I am always caught between how to celebrate his life and to mourn his death since the two are now inextricably linked. I decided a couple of years ago that perhaps the best thing to do is stop fighting that ambivalence–February is always going to feel like this, and I should learn to accept it. It was out of this thought that the poem below emerged. I have never published it, or attempted to, but I have no shared it at a couple of readings, and it’s always well received. So I will publish it here.
The package was nothing but white cardboard
held together with glue and clear tape.
It hadn’t even arrived special delivery.
He found it on the porch when he got home.
He used a letter opener
to sever the tape
when the flaps popped straight up.
Hiding beneath layers of bubble wrap
was a metal container
the color of charcoal.
Inside that was a heavy plastic bag
filled with a gritty black dust.
The bag was clasped together
with a gold tag engraved
with his father’s name.
He pushed his way through the overgrown woods
to the river where his father fished as a boy.
He thought about birthdays that arrived
with no presents, or even phone calls.
But then he remembered the night
his father held his hand and spoke gently
explaining why Rick would just let Ilsa
fly off into the darkness.
Cradling the bag
in the crook of his arm
wishing his father
had always been
this easy to hold.