I am so pleased to report that our Virtual Poetorium Father’s Day Poetry Project, that I announced earlier on this blog, turned out perhaps even better than I thought it would. In spite of a few glitches with the Zoom invitations and links, our Father’s Day Poetry Zoom Event, with fourteen poets presenting their original poems (or in one case, a song) about their fathers, was held on June 20th, and quite a success. Although it may be a bit rough and unedited, here is the link to the video recording of that very special evening: https://youtu.be/BJgYhmocm00. Unfortunately the part near the end where I read our special group ode to Fathers, “Remembering Our Fathers: A Group Ode in Two Parts” (compiled from contributions from eleven poets) turned out a bit garbled, so I’m also including another separate video of myself reading the ode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INgQj9JQ64M. I hope you will enjoy them both, and please feel free to share them with your friends.
I am still working on the Poetorium Father’s Day Poetry Anthology to be posted on the Poetorium website that will include all fourteen poems read at our Zoom event as well as our group ode, but here is a sneak preview for my readers of this blog. This is the finished version of “Remembering Our Fathers: A Group Ode in Two Parts” (you may notice this version is a bit different from the one you hear me read in the videos—I revised the poem after receiving feedback from some of the contributors):
Remembering Our Fathers: A Group Ode in Two Parts
1. In Hushed Rememberance
I remember my father as a silent presence,
a volcano smoking in the dark,
erupting not often, but memorably—
a presence to keep your eyes on.
I remember my father now mainly in dreams
(though more and more less frequently),
ones in which he’s behind the wheel
of our second-hand Ford Granada,
his own eyes on the road ahead,
while demanding irrevocable quiet
from all the other occupants,
as we drive into deepening darkness
down lonesome one-lane byways.
I remember my father on his 80th birthday
(to grow old is to be drowned out by the cacaphony
of change, as your entire world is dismantled
all around you). The next day my mother called,
she was crying. He passed away in the hospital
without saying a word. Now cremated, he rests
in sulking stillness on my mother’s bureau in her room…
2. The Braid
I remember my father when I was a child
of eight or nine, trailing him through the cornfield
with my instamatic camera, clicking and clicking the shutter,
the visor of his soiled gray cap turned up,
as I captured what I beieved was the eternal twinkle
in his eyes and a joyous grin animating his face,
but now with hindsight, more likely just
his natural reaction to the harsh rays
of the glaring afternoon sun.
I remember my father’s blue-eyed smile,
his laughing approval, his circling arms
how he walked me up hills holding my hand,
took my picture in the wind. He still has
the moustache, the jawline, the straight shoulders
of a movie star, and the kindest, gentlest heart.
Wine should be sipped he taught us,
a knife respected, the truth told.
And the first kiss after shaving was a gift
only our daddy could bestow.
I remember how our father didn’t have time to stop
to close the driver’s side truck door as he dashed around
loading mowers, filling tanks, changing blades
before hustling out for the next job
but did have time to stop to steal our basketball, show off
footwork in work boots: fake one way, spin, drop
to the other, a beautiful hook shot arcing, falling, kissing
the net, my brother and I cheering in the sun.
I remember my father taking me to Pathmark,
reading all the labels, and teaching me how to shop.
I remember my father teaching me jazz—
asking me to tape five variations of Monk’s Misterioso.
Listening to that tape over and over with Dad,
we were both smiling.
I remember my father—there could be no other—
black-and-white-suited on the train that he commuted.
I remember him on bended knees at his bedside at night,
his familiar plea to the divine above “Please help
us raise the seven children in our family”.
I remember my father for his worthless words,
but also watchful eyes and softest touch,
that he always remembered all my favorites…
Everything. Every time. My father’s love
seldom spoken, always certain.
I remember my father telling me
I didn’t owe him anything. I didn’t believe him
until I had a child of my own, long after he had passed.
All these combined memories, the stories of our families
(our interactions intertwined) becomes the braid
we make down through time (father to son or daughter),
the rope we lower or climb that keeps us together.
—Compiled by Paul Szlosek with contributions from Tom Ewart, Mishelle Goodwin, Howard J Kogan, Jonathan Andersen, Carla Schwartz, Rob Jaret, Patricia O’Connor, Dee O’Connor, Susan O. Nedd, and Natasha S. Garnett
I hope you enjoyed reading the Poetorium Group Ode to Fathers, and thank you so much for your continued support of this blog!