Father’s Folly

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 Listen to a reading of the poem


Amongst the pear trees groaning with fruit
it might be a play on Keats
close bosom’d fraternity of maturing sons
he would chide we brothers from ladder top.
On high meadow, tea beckoning, I creeping like snail
Marvell would be his target
let’s go lad time’s wingless tractor trundles near.
The farmer with a literary bent
as fond of wit as wheat my father
as keen on alliteration as fertilization
only one writer earned his curse
coming home from lower sixth
I quote from the four quartets
expecting a nod of appreciation
but dismayed at his vitriol
never did learn the cause
the lapsed pagan’s contempt for the dour anglo-catholic?
the humanist’s loathing for the anti-semite?
the classicist’s disdain for a drip, drip refrain?
At his end, barrel chest shrunk, cheeks sunk like tinajas
he whispered for the Relic,
I stuttered Donne’s hallowed lines
Cadenced by his hollow breaths.

In my America, my new bound land
wife and I leave the in-laws house
I chance the hackneyed line
let us go then, you and I
delighted to hear her father
patient unethereal at the table
utter the half remembered stanza.
Eliot held us over the decades
a cold coming we had of it at Christmas
April became the coolest month
pre dinner we were hollow men
post prandial stuffed men.
On desert walks we longed foolishly
for the sound of water over a rock.
At his last, chest sunk, cheeks like Wedgewood saucers
voice gone he drew me to him
wheezed for the Magi.
I stumbled the oft rehearsed verse
choired by his whistling chorus.
I should be glad of such a death.