Friday, March 20, 2009

Dead Dad

My dad died last week. For the past year & a half, he'd been severely incapacitated due to a major stroke.

Sadly, we didn't have a good relationship. I wouldn't liken it to Plath's "Daddy," or, for that matter, Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays" either. Nor was it like Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz," although Dad's alcoholism has blurred & tainted most of my memories of him.

I allude to this in "The Summer Before Last Summer" (which appears in both Nearing Narcoma & Manthology: Poems of the Male Experience). I've reprinted the poem below as if an elegy:

The Summer Before Last Summer

Taking the fishing trip I never had as a boy,
I’m standing on the boat’s port side because,
well, I like standing, the handle of my rod
propped against my gut. I’m a man.
It’s what men do. When I feel my line go taut,

I begin to reel it in. I’m not very good at this,
& it’s a struggle. Nothing like Santiago’s
great fish, I’ll confess, but there’s definitely
something on the other end. Maybe a hubcap,
maybe a fish. Like a pediatrician,

I have little patience, which
I expect to snap, that is, if my hands don't cramp.
I draw the line in, take up the slack
until, with just a gentle jerk, I’m left
holding a pole, limp & weightless.

My arms can’t describe my loss. I stop, eyes fixed
on white fins cutting across the surface.
I think sharks, but upon closer inspection,
I see it’s my old man, young again behind
the wheel of his ’60 Plymouth, off on a binge,

driving home the long way, the wrong way.


Riley said...

Very sorry for your loss. I had a very complicated relationship with my mom and when she died a few years ago, I was surprised how upset I was. My response was to take a lot of photographs of gravestones in French cemeteries. This poem is also a fitting tribute. It has always been one of my favorites. The final line is really hits me hard, you know? Again, very sorry for your loss.

Matt Morris said...

Thanks, Andy.