Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Man of the Year

My father tells the story of his life

and he repeats The most important thing:
          to love your work.
I always loved my work. I was a lucky man.

This man who makes up half of who I am,
         this blusterer
who tricked the rich, outsmarting smarter men,

gave up his Army life insurance plan
          (not thinking of the future
wife and kids) and brokered deals with two-faced

rats who disappeared his cash but later overpaid
         for building sites.
In every tale my father plays outlaw, a Robin Hood

for whom I'm named, a type of yeoman
         refused admission
into certain clubs. For years he joined no guild—

no Drapers, Goldsmiths, Skinners, Merchant
         Tailors, Salters, Vintners—
but lived on prescience and cleverness.

He was the self-inventing Polish immigrant's
         Son, transformed
By American tools into Errol Flynn.

As he speaks, I remember the phone calls
         during meals—
an old woman dead in apartment two-twelve

or burst pipes and water flooding rooms.
         Hatless,
he left the house and my mother's face

assumed the permanent worry she wore,
         forced to watch him
gamble the future of the semi-detached house,

our college funds, and his weekly payroll.
         Manorial halls
of Philadelphia his Nottingham,

my father fashioned his fraternity
         without patronage
or royal charters but a mercantile

swagger, finding his Little John, Tinker,
         and Allen-a-Dale.
Wholesalers, retailers, in time they resembled

the men they set themselves against.
         Each year they roast and toast
one member, a remnant of the Grocer's Feast

held on St. Anthony's Day, when brothers
         communed and dined
on swan, capon, partridges, and wine.

They commission a coat of arms, a song,
         and honor my father—
exemplary, self-made, without debt—

as Man of the Year, a title he reveres
          for the distinguished
peerage he joins, the lineage of merry men.

Credit


From Domain of Perfect Affection © 2006. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Author


Robin Becker

Robin Becker was born in 1951 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

Date Published: 2006-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/man-year