Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Happy Father’s Day: June 16!

Here are three poems on the ordinary/extraordinary care fathers, often without a word, bestow:

by Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze.  No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices? 
(from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden, Liveright Publishing Corp., 1966)

by Li-Young Lee

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.

I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife’s right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when given something to keep.
I kissed my father.
(from Rose by Li-Young Lee, published by BOA Editions, Ltd., 1986)

by Bruce Weigl

My father did not read to me,
he would not quote anything or anyone,
he never alluded
as we are wont to say in my world
to poems or stories
to make a point or to teach me
some lesson about the life
beyond the slag heaps of our steel city
dying upon our dying lake.

And what you teach someone
with a belt across his back
is belts,
or I missed the point of those beatings
which were not so bad—
the loud voice in the hallway, then the belt
then the kisses on his lap.
If I could bring the words to you
as though from him,
clear as the air off this bay
you would see—

he is home from the foundry,
younger than I am now, the black
dust from the mill like a mask
and he is bending down to me
in the dusk where I waited
on the steps of the bar
for his bus
and the cathedral
he makes with his fingers
opens to a silver dime
he twists before me
and lays down into my hands
for being good he says.
(from What Saves Us by Bruce Weigl, published by TriQuaterly Books/Northwestern University, 1992)


Thomas Dickinson said...

I love poetry. And since father's day is coming, I thought that I should gather and browse for some fathers day poems that can serve as my inspiration. They're good for cards too. Thanks for sharing some ideas. Happy Father's Day!

Anonymous said...

They are so lovely. Thanks for sharing.