For the dim regions whence my fathers came
My spirit, bondaged by the body, longs.
Words felt, but never heard, my lips would frame;
My soul would sing forgotten jungle songs.
I would go back to darkness and to peace,
But the great western world holds me in fee,
And I may never hope for full release
While to its alien gods I bend my knee.
Something in me is lost, forever lost,
Some vital thing has gone out of my heart,
And I must walk the way of life a ghost
Among the sons of earth, a thing apart;
For I was born, far from my native clime,
Under the white man's menace, out of time.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on July 7, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
what kind of wound make a man
set his favorite rooster loose
on a dying hen what make the man
snap the neck of that twice-broken bird
before his child’s eyes what make him see
the bad idea after the fact—what open him
like a storm what make a man refuse
to ask forgiveness what make him offer
the sudden softness of his voice instead
what get the man loaded what make him choose
to carry the small brightness of his child’s body
through the cold sleeping city —no—
what make a man decide to drift the roads anyway
so his child stay warm in the front seat
what make him park the car two blocks away—
what arms filled and humming you are my sun-
shine each dark step of the way home
From Night Angler. Copyright © 2018 by Geffrey Davis. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of BOA Editions.
Late afternoon, autumn equinox,
and my daughter and I
are at the table silently
eating fried eggs and muffins,
sharp cheese, and yesterday’s
rice warmed over. We put
our paper plates in the woodstove
and go outside:
fills the alders with
the geometries of long
blonde hair, and twin ravens
ride the rollercoasters
of warm September air
out, toward Protection Island.
Together, we enter the roughed-in
room beside our cabin
and begin our toil together:
she, cutting and stapling
insulation; I, cutting
and nailing the tight rows
of cedar. We work in a silence
broken only by occasional banter.
I wipe the cobwebs
from nooks and sills, working
on my knees as though this prayer
of labor could save me, as though
the itch of fiberglass
and sawdust were an answer
to some old incessant question
I never dare to remember.
And when the evening comes on
at last, cooling our arms
and faces, we stop
and stand back to assess
our work together.
remember the face
of my father climbing down
from a long wooden ladder
thirty years before. He
was a tall strong sapling
smelling of tar and leather,
his pate bald and burned
to umber by a sun
that blistered the Utah desert.
He strode the rows of coops
with a red cocker spaniel
and tousled boy-child
at his heel.
I turn to look
at my daughter: her mop
of blonde curls catches
the last trembling light
of the day, her lean body
sways with weariness. I try,
but cannot remember
the wisdom of fourteen years,
the pleasures of that
discovery. Eron smiles.
At the stove, we wash up
as the sun dies in a candle-flame.
A light breeze tears
the first leaves of autumn
from boughs that slowly darken.
A squirrel, enraged,
castigates the dog
for some inscrutable intrusion,
and Eron climbs the ladder
to her loft.
I am utterly alone,
I am a child
gazing up at a father, a father
looking down at his daughter.
A strange shudder
comes over me like a chill.
Is this what there is
to remember – the long days
roofing coops, the building
of rooms on a cabin, the in
significant meal? The shadows
of moments mean everything
and nothing, the dying
landscapes of remembered
human faces freeze
into a moment.
was in the basement, was
knotty pine, back there,
in diamondback country.
The night swings over
the cold Pacific. I pour
a cup of coffee, heavy
in my bones. Soon, this fine
young woman will stare into
the face of her own son
or daughter, the years
gone suddenly behind her.
Will she remember only
the ache, the immense satisfaction
of that longing?
be happy, filled
with the essential,
working in the twilight,
on her knees, at autumn equinox,
gathering the stories
of silence together,
preparing to meet the winter.
From Animae (Copper Canyon Press, 1981). Copyright © 1981 by Sam Hamill. Used with the permission of Eron Hamill.
A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.
No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.
This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,
HANDLE WITH CARE.
His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.
We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.
The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.
Naomi Shihab Nye, “Shoulders” from Red Suitcase. Copyright © 1994 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.
A light is on in my father's study.
"Still up?" he says, and we are silent,
looking at the harbor lights,
listening to the surf
and the creak of coconut boughs.
He is working late on cases.
No impassioned speech! He argues from evidence,
actually pacing out and measuring,
while the fans revolving on the ceiling
winnow the true from the false.
Once he passed a brass curtain rod
through a head made out of plaster
and showed the jury the angle of fire—
where the murderer must have stood.
For years, all through my childhood,
if I opened a closet . . . bang!
There would be the dead man's head
with a black hole in the forehead.
All the arguing in the world
will not stay the moon.
She has come all the way from Russia
to gaze for a while in a mango tree
and light the wall of a veranda,
before resuming her interrupted journey
beyond the harbor and the lighthouse
at Port Royal, turning away
from land to the open sea.
Yet, nothing in nature changes, from that day to this,
she is still the mother of us all.
I can see the drifting offshore lights,
black posts where the pelicans brood.
And the light that used to shine
at night in my father's study
now shines as late in mine.
From Collected Poems by Louis Simpson, published by Paragon House, 1988. Copyright © 1988 by Louis Simpson. All rights reserved. Used with permission. (Originally published in Caviare at the Funeral, Franklin Watts, 1980.)