Look For Me Father, #135

-for Stanley Kunitz, 1905-2006

Tending your garden,
where we are certain
you’ve settled, watch out
until I walk down
the rows, down the lines
and lines of string beans,
eggplant, summer squash,
the rank of pumpkins.
Look for me face down,
with your dirty palms,
trowel and shovel
carving the soil,
patches on your knees.

Look for me and wait
please, until I can
figure out what words
best fit the long slow
rumble of my life’s
harvest, what letters
I have to address
and what’s my sentence.
Wait for me until
I can find my seeds
and find the moment
to sow and to reap,
until the fruit is ripe
on the vine, blushing
with delights of life.
Father, thrice married,
constantly tilling,
shuttled off to war,
where they say you found
your humanity
and your voice. Lost

for the brief second
that Uncle Sam’s call
could not be silenced.
Father, did you love
God and your Country?
And what of your farm
remains here for me
to till in this young
century? I trust
there are still weeds
to be raised. Father,
your finite wisdom
and soothing vocals
rising up over
my head, rocking me
to sleep under stone
sheets. Will you be there
to wake me, when time
ascends like the buzz
of an alarm clock?
When no more snoozing
can be slapped back down,
nor words passed over?

Father, off scripting
your poems, we are
certain, raising them
like children, who come
when you call, who show
up for a meal
or a holiday,
but then obey not
a single word
you say. Wait for me,
hunched over a chair
in the study, pen
and cataracted eyes
pouring down over
the cliffs of lines,
crossed out and rewrote,
heading for their last
resting place, perfect
tombs between pages.

My father, for whom
love was another
word, and too used up,
finding no comfort
among the piles
of objects he used
to tell stories. Signs
held up by crazed men
and portraits. Recall,
father, the baseball
glove you bought for me,
the angst and poems
stitched into the web
of that mitt and how
many flyballs one
can catch with honey.

Father, my father,
whose words are totems
I’ve fell to the ground
to pray for, whose hands,
withered like the weeds
growing at my feet,
have slapped back my cheap
anguish, ordered me,
do better, always
strive to do better.

Meet me in the rows
of hydrangeas
or marigolds, leave
all the vegetables
for harvest, tubers
buried in the earth
and growing eyes. Wait
for the bones of men
to be raised by hands
curled with arthritis,
stuck in position
of the typewriter’s
keys, each day pounding.

Father, who always
knew just the right words
to say, who chose them
carefully, most times
keeping too quiet
and far too distant.

Look for me behind
you, in collections,
just a few pages
and a few letters
away. I’m the boy
who scribbles on walls,
who write graffiti
called odes, which are not
odes but elegies;
for the sons who can’t
talk to their fathers,
and the fathers, who’s
sons are still learning.



A day is not done, until it's filled with words.

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