Fathers and fatherhood, with poems by Thomas Jardine, Harriet Stratton, Marc Swan and Jeanie Sanders.
On this episode, three poems about fathers and one about being a father.
Thomas Jardine said, “I went swimming with my three-year-old boy on a clear night. When I pointed out Venus, he pointed out other stars.” Here’s his poem “We Swim.”
We swim, two tadpoles in a pool,
my cheery year-old boy and I
beneath a twilight purple sky
with Venus a bobbing molecule.
He holds my shoulders. “Good boy, good,”
I say, to buoy him high with praise
and clear my dreary single days
with fresh inchoate fatherhood,
albeit august, boff and boyish.
A gamey shot one evening took.
I point; “Look way up there son, look,
your first real star for your first wish!”
Can baby boys see light that far?
Uncertain of his giddy glance,
I point again. He points askance
up to a smaller, fainter star.
“We Swim,” Thomas Jardine from Passager Issue 55.
Harriet Stratton wrote a series of verbal descriptions of the life, aging and passing of her 90-something year-old parents on their Colorado cattle ranch. Here’s one of them, “While Making Fence with My Father.”
I carry the red Hills Brothers coffee can half full
of u-shaped fence staples. He picks out four at a time
to nail each strand of stretched wire to a cedar post.
On the tailgate, we eat a sandwich. He uncorks his thermos.
I kneel in the sand sifting dry silk through 3rd grade fingers.
That’s how I find the tiny clam shell — far from any obvious shore.
I raise the fossil to my father’s smile. He sweeps his arm
across the sandhill prairie . . . once this was water
. . . you’re sitting on the bed of an ancient sea.
Something stirred in me then, a tingling like a root
fluorescing at a depth below time . . .
I think I began to feel how it is to think.
As if a camera that had been focused on me backed away
and through the lens, young dad, and me and the blue pickup
appeared as an island in the ocean of grass.
As my vision receded further into space, I became
but a thin grain on a shoreline circumscribing what I knew
surrounded by a waving sea of all that there is unknown.
“While Making Fence with My Father,” Harriet Stratton, from Passager Issue 69.
Marc Swan’s father was a hunter. He said, “He taught me how to shoot, break down weapons, clean the parts, heat lead, pour it into the mold to make bullets.” Here’s Marc Swan’s poem “A Life Lesson.”
On a knoll above a field of goldenrod,
a lone woodchuck sits and eats
and looks here and there, and eats.
My father hands me his thirty-ought-six
with the ten power scope.
“Now,” he says. I lift the rifle
to my shoulder,
stare through the tiny hole
at the small brown blur growing
clearer way up on the knoll.
“Just ease the trigger,”
he says, “don’t rush it.”
I do that, ease the trigger
and touch off the bullet that flies
so rapidly the woodchuck never knows
it’s coming. My father’s excited.
We run together through goldenrod
to the thrashing brown creature
gasping in bloody bent grass. My father pulls
out his .45 calibre automatic pistol,
and blasts one round into the wobbling head.
When I get home, I look
at my 12th birthday present —
a 12 gauge L.C. Smith double-barreled shotgun,
pick it up and carry it to his gunroom.
We never talk of that day or of much of anything.
We never have the talk about love, sex and marriage
though when I marry my first wife
he gives me a copy of The Pearl, “a Victorian erotic classic.”
“A Life Lesson,” Marc Swan, from Passager Issue 61.
Jeanie Sanders said, “After my dad died we were cleaning out his house and found his teeth. It was a connection of sorts back to him, and one he would have laughed at himself.” “Daddy.”
When he died
we found his teeth.
in their pink plastic container.
We used to look for them everywhere
before he got so sick
he couldn’t wear them at all.
they were under his pillow
like a late gift from the
He hated wearing those teeth.
He bought some new ones
but he didn’t like them either.
They were cheap
and too big for his mouth.
And when he smiled
made him look
like a horse baring his teeth
before he bit you.
Jeanie Sanders’ poem “Daddy” from Passager Issue 62.
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For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne, the rest of the Passager staff, and our fathers, wherever they may be, I’m Jon Shorr.