I've written several poems about my dad over the years. Some are about his childhood, the moment he learned at age 11 that his own father died. Some are about my childhood, driving around St. Petersburg, Florida with him as he gestured here and there naming places and stories of his life. Some are about sitting together at a Redskins game or my visiting him at the hospital when his lungs were full of blood clots (and he just sat watching the Redskins game rather than talking to me -he and I still disagree on this detail). And some are about tiny moments when I've looked at him and been struck by the fact that I have the privilege of still having him with me at age 34, a privilege neither of my parents had, that my children get to have a warm-eyed grandfather in their lives, a mythical kind of man I only imagined. This poems describes a moment like that, and his birthday, as I celebrate his life and health, seems like an appropriate day to share it.
My Father Who Holds the World
When I walk into the bathroom, the small TV on the counter
speaks the 11 o'clock news and my father is at the sink.
I sit and watch him as I watched him 25 years ago, his young daughter
balanced on the lip of the tub, watching to see him run the razor
across his soft cheeks, over his Adam's apple, along the jaw bone.
Tonight I watch with the same attentiveness, wanting to commit
to memory the slope of his forehead, the way he stands with hands
on either side of the sink, the tension silenced in his shoulders,
the shape of his watch imprinted on his wrist. I am sitting
with my back against smooth tile, my son asleep
in the neighboring room – please please stay alive.
(Portland Review 56#1 Spring/Summer)