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Father Anniversaries (2) - by Peter Neary-Chaplin

October 19th 2013

It was a tumbleweed visit
though he would have thought that word
Hee hee you silly josser, he would have grinned.
Here lies my father,
twenty years under ground
and counting
in slow earth time.

I looked with half a heart for all my stories.
Couldn't seem to find them anywhere.
I made a lazy trawl for all my lacks,
but they were absent too.

On earlier visits I was pretty good, I recall,
studiously forgiving him
for what he had not been,
for his age,
for the man circuits he never installed in me.
Now I ask it of him,
not because I or he were wrong,
just that now I have a son
and that's how things are.
It falls away, the need to get things right.
We meet at the understanding grave,
washed and worn by rain,
one cold, one warm,
being used up.

Nothing needed doing.
I polished the stone
and tidied up
the ragged, stemmy lavendar
that still pushes out a scent.


Christmas Eve, by Ted Kooser

Now my father carries his old heart
in its basket of ribs
like a child coming into the room
with an injured bird.
Our ages sit down with a table between them,
eager to talk.
Our common bones are wrapped in new robes.
A common pulse tugs at the ropes
in the backs of our hands.
We are so much alike
we both weep at the end of his stories.


From Brother Songs.


Out-and-Down Pattern, by William Kloefhorn

My young son pushes a football into my stomach
and tells me that he is going to run
an out-and-down pattern,
and before I can check the signals
already he is half way across the front lawn,
approaching the year-old mountain ash,
and I turn the football slowly in my hands,
my fingers like tentacles
exploring the seams,
searching out the lacing,
and by the time I have the ball positioned
just so against the grain-tight leather,
he has made his cut downfield
and is now well beyond the mountain ash,
approaching the linden,
and I pump my arm once, then once again,
and let fire.

The ball in a high arc
rises up and out and over the linden,
up and out over the figure
that has now crossed the street,
that is now all the way to Leighton Avenue,
now far beyond,
the arms outstretched,
the head as I remember it
turned back, as I remember it
the small voice calling.

And the ball at the height of its high arc
begins now to drift,
to float as if weightless
atop the streetlights and the trees,
becoming at last that first bright star in the west.

Late into an early morning
I stand on the front porch,
looking into my hands.
My son is gone.

The berries on the mountain ash
are bursting red this year,
and on the linden
blossoms spread like children.

From Brother Songs, Holy Cow Press ISBN 0-930100-02-6


Healing Waters, by Peter Neary-Chaplin

An angel stirred up the pool at noon
one bleak brown day in winter.
We dragged ourselves up,
on haunches, on crutches,
on brittle bones, on pressed pills and radium rays,
not racing any more these days,
preferring this half-dead unhealing,
so old we can finger only scars.
And no luck again today, nor soon.

But, as I sink back out of hope,
father's spirit gathers from the lucid lime-bright water,
rises like steam, coalesces towards me,
drags over the waters,
commands ordered columns from the shapeless vapour,
arms flung extravagantly wide,
forgives my sin,
softly seeping through my broken skin.

From My Mother is an Old Elephant, available here.

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