Sunday, April 24, 2011

April 18, Poem 18 - morning / father

morning / father

If when my grandfather (whom I called Daddy

because my mother called him that) shone shoes

on Saturday (every Saturday, every shoe in the house)

I hadn’t sometimes sat on the floor in front of him

reaching into the hand made wooden box, inlaid

with shelves (one for polish of various colors,

one for polish rags and shine rags) to hand him

the various tools of this tasking when he needed

them (I was fascinated by the process of shoe-shining),

I would know nothing of the idea. the connection

between hard work and love (my grandfather

shone slow, his brow beaded up in sweat

laughing with me as we turned each

shoe up to the light to see it gleam).

And I wouldn’t then see how much

my step-father was learning how to love

(or maybe doing just what he thought was

the next thing a man should do, or

concerned with winning from my mother

what it had seemed impossible to men

from my village to win from her) when

he spoke and reasoned with me, as if

his own blood – so that I called him

eventually, Daddy too. I went

a long time before I was willing

to accept the prayer of hard work

(wanting to believe more

in love’s familiarity with magic).

But I must have known it,

must have felt the duen

of it move in my stomach early

when my own father came

from America and visited

and pleaded a kind of love

there in the yard to my mother

who stayed aloof over the balcony

(unwilling to accept his absentee

excuses), because I saw it

when my grandmother wouldn’t

let him (my father) see me; and something

knotted in my stomach, because

I was inside and could see him

in the gallery pleading with her,

too, and I’ve never stopped calling

him Daddy, even though he never

lived in the same house with me

(it always seemed natural to call

him so). And maybe it’s

really easy to see where this

is going now; the psychology

recognizable to any casual reader,

to anyone who took up the mantle

of loving me – that I’ve much greater

ease with Daddy than with Father.

Of course it’s taken me forever

to know how to connect love

with hard work, because the work

of loving has always been like

the easy duty of shining shoes.

You can do it slow, on a weekend

morning when only you and a boy

whom you love are awake and finding

ways to make the morning glow

in a pair of old black leather brogues.

You, or the I who is becoming

has always made light of hard work.

Picture how easily you let

the solitude of yard work consume

you, how easily taken in by the solitude

of the long distance drive,

how you can sequester yourself

and your shoes, or returning home

awake in the morning – uncomfortable

early, when the dew is on the grass

and the yard seems magical,

and sit quietly beside your father

the coffee steaming, some easy

thing at task between you

and no-one needs to explain

or ask anymore questions

or ever be forgiven.

To schedule a reading or an appearance please contact Ofer Ziv at Blue Flower Arts at 845-677-8559 or email


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