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MY FATHER AND HIS FATHER — tanka string

20 Feb

MY FATHER AND HIS FATHER

Grandfather
transforms the sports page
into a sea-captain’s hat—
when the little boy puts it on,
there is the ocean, in his eyes

my father’s father
did the work of ten men
if asked, he’d say:
when you wake up, get up
when you get up, do something
_________________________

Dad went to war
first, to Europe, then Korea,
then Vietnam
I did the same, plus Africa,
following the family trade

Dad said, see this ball,
look, it has two sharp edges
—but it’s round, I said—
we played ‘catch’ with it awhile
then he threw it at my head

Dad said, yin and yang . . .
I just stared stupidly;
he said use and abuse
and when I sneered he slapped me
then he held me tenderly

chipmunks celebrate
this manna-fall of acorns
just when most needed
Father’s hand on my shoulder
the comfort of his embrace

drinking hot java
to clear that old boozy fog
I still tightly grip
my chipped “world’s greatest dad” mug,
even though it burns . . . it burns

tree leaves show
their silvery undersides
as a storm arrives
I hear the front door slam
tonight’s drama begins

late in the season
the lingering storm breaks
its gusts snap branches
winter lightning
Father fights the war again

leaving home
without your blessing
forgive me, Father
this headwind
is a cold cruel knife

my father’s workshop
vacant since his stroke
how quickly even
the finest tools corrode
and lose their cutting edge

in my dreams
Dad does chores with me
we work and laugh,
work and talk . . . but never
once about the nursing home

Father, you were
before ever I drew breath
now, again, you’ve gone before
I follow in your trail
from my first home to my last

Postscript

it is
my barren joy
to have no son
to send away to war . . .
a final wound to wear

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Posted by on February 20, 2015 in Tanka

 

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