Way back on the first of the month, Jim Daniel’s poem “Anthem” was featured on The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor. It’s a poem that makes me think of my father. Check it out here.
Thanksgiving time makes me think of him too. My father died the day after Thanksgiving in 1966. So for my post today, I’m sharing the poem I made up about him, and how I miss him.
It’s my way of commemorating the date of his death. Do you know W. S. Merwin’s poem “For the Anniversary of My Death?” “Every year without knowing it I have passed the day / When the last fires will wave to me “ Check it out here.
Peace, love, and solace
Remembering the Maine
Johnnie, April 10, 1927, Oakland Calif
Here’s a wavy print of you, Dad, in black, white, and gray,
spectacles peeking from a salvaged torpedo port
of the U. S. S. Maine. It was blown to bits in Cuba
some 30 years earlier. On a trip with Maurice and Sue,
you’re far from home, driving through California,
wearing a suit coat though it looks near noon.
The fierce wind and unrelenting sun make you
want a drink, to roll up your sleeves, maybe peel
down to your undershirt. Let’s hope you found a crab
shack somewhere with fresh fish and cold beer.
I bet the week was Maurice’s idea. We might
as well travel, he’d say, our old man took to it.
The snapshots from Sue’s camera
show how the wind whipped so the first time
you saw the Pacific, peaceful it’s not.
Imagine–the torpedo port that frames your smile
might have been the last thing a sailor saw before
that February night exploded. This salvaged
memento had to be hauled across country.
Why—does it honor a local man?
You never swim that whole trip, wild wind, harsh coast.
no time. Once a broken-down trucker
said something to Sue and you had to leave because
he was so drunk, and there’s no telling with drinking.
That night, in a little place off the highway, where
seashells outlined the paths and beds, all in a row,
like Mary Contrary’s garden, the lime trees
so precious they could grace a dollhouse lawn,
you could still hear that furious wind.
History says the Maine brought us to war though
I don’t recall — was it an explosion or a fire?
It’s like explaining this photo to which I must
give a story. Truth is, I don’t know so I make it up,
your life and trips–you. Well, most of you.
The wind doesn’t cease, that’s what you seem to say,
the man, whose smile, in the mirror, I look for still.
© Ellen Wade Beals