This Sunday is Father’s Day. No doubt you’ll read many saccharine accounts of fathers and what it means to be a parent and to be parented. But reality is not usually as sweet. Sometimes the people in our lives cannot be summed up with sentimentality. One of my favorite poems is This Be the Verse by Philip Larkin because it views parenting as flawed at best. Of course it is overly cynical. Nevertheless, there is much truth in this jaundiced view of parenting as imperfect and human. I know imperfect and human could apply to my parenting, but I would also add that it is loving too (something Larkin overlooks).
In the poem “Warnings” Laura Rodley writes about a father who was complicated.
Thanks to Laura for this contribution. Happy Father’s Day to all.
Peace, love, solace
A job worth doing is worth doing well.
Pay attention, or we’ll have to keep you
till you’re twenty-one, my father threatened,
you don‘t pay attention, expecting perfection
the first time any new task was attempted.
A World War II vet, who served
in Korea, he never talked
about it. His hair-trigger temper,
his headaches if he didn’t eat spoke for him.
Breakfast, a sandwich for lunch were not enough.
He should have bought snacks but he did not
make anything for himself. He wanted to be
served. By the time dinner was served,
it was too late; he had another headache.
He had contracted dengue fever, maybe
he was dehydrated. He had that never-sitting-still,
no meditating, jittery energy that some
World War II vets had, their wives too, loud,
aggressive, dominant. Their children took up
meditation to counter-balance the tension.
Is it retroactive, what work we do on ourselves
for those that helped create us? Prayers can be
retroactive. My father was never still, never
peaceful, always dynamic, frenetic. He told me,
hold onto my thumbs, walk up my back
to my shoulders, leap off into the deep end.
© Laura Rodley, 2021
A frequent contributor to this site, Massachusetts poet Laura Rodley, is also freelance writer for publications such as Country Life. The two most recent books by Laura are Counter Point (Prolific Press) and Turn Left at Normal (Big Table Publishing).
In 2013, she was awarded a Pushcart Prize for her poem “Resurrection” which appeared in the New Verse News. In 2020, New Verse News published her poem (“Power Outage”) about the pandemic. She also has two poems in The Galway Review (“Flashpoint” and “Bad Mood”) and her poem “Splicing” appears in the Boston Literary Magazine.
THANK-YOU to Laura for sharing her work here.