Author's Note: Here are two father-poems that have much in common. "Men Working in Trees" was begun around 1976; I was very young. "Another Longing Poem" was from 2009; I was less young. Now as this Father's Day approaches, I'm old, according to everyone, but hardly any wiser or less subject to the call of writing poems about fathers.
Men Working in Trees
The streets are closed. Men are working in trees. The eyes that once watched closely don’t bother anymore, their faces too busy among the leaves. Their mouths tear the branches which tumble on the children who are forever underfoot, whose mothers have told them forever, be kind to the trees. The trees are our friends. The children are aging fast. They have hardly learned to write and they want to carve their names. They want to peel the bark away and get beneath the skin. Is anybody watching? Is anybody there? The fathers can’t come home this way. The streets are closed. Men working in trees.
Another Longing Poem
... And they, since they Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs. —“Out, Out”, Robert Frost It’s getting late, past supper, and a boy sits by the window waiting. He can’t see far for the trees, so he’s learned to stare at the lone magnolia out front its flowers and scent now done. If he holds his head just right the leaves catch the lights of all the cars, even those not traveling his road. Cars come and cars go and nothing he wishes for happens. No one will ever come. He’ll wait forever, and this will be his only life, women’s work—waiting, his father told him once. Years now, and I’ve learned to pretend. Follow the motions and life might feel sharp enough and real. But then I fail again and write another longing poem that ought to exorcise all longing. And damn if the old feeling isn’t fed by what I write. Frost says, No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. He knows, for us who have to write, everything can feed everything. Tears feed tears, longing longing. But why not say anything about what fathers do. Or, why fathers don’t come home, at least in time to turn to their affairs.
Originally published in Sheila-Na-Gig Online
©2022 Alan Walowitz
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