Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Sunday, June 15, 2014

Poems About Fathers

My Papa’s Waltz

The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother’s countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

 You beat time on my head
 With a palm caked hard by dirt,
 Then waltzed me off to bed
 Still clinging to your shirt.


You do not do, you do not do 
Any more, black shoe 
In which I have lived like a foot 
For thirty years, poor and white, 
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo. 

Daddy, I have had to kill you. 
You died before I had time—— 
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God, 
Ghastly statue with one gray toe 
Big as a Frisco seal 

And a head in the freakish Atlantic 
Where it pours bean green over blue 
In the waters off beautiful Nauset. 
I used to pray to recover you. 
Ach, du. 

In the German tongue, in the Polish town 
Scraped flat by the roller 
Of wars, wars, wars. 
But the name of the town is common. 
My Polack friend 

Says there are a dozen or two. 
So I never could tell where you 
Put your foot, your root, 
I never could talk to you. 
The tongue stuck in my jaw. 

It stuck in a barb wire snare. 
Ich, ich, ich, ich, 
I could hardly speak. 
I thought every German was you. 
And the language obscene 

An engine, an engine 
Chuffing me off like a Jew. 
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen. 
I began to talk like a Jew. 
I think I may well be a Jew. 

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna 
Are not very pure or true. 
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck 
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack 
I may be a bit of a Jew. 

I have always been scared of you, 
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo. 
And your neat mustache 
And your Aryan eye, bright blue. 
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You—— 

Not God but a swastika 
So black no sky could squeak through. 
Every woman adores a Fascist, 
The boot in the face, the brute 
Brute heart of a brute like you. 

You stand at the blackboard, daddy, 
In the picture I have of you, 
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot 
But no less a devil for that, no not 
Any less the black man who 

Bit my pretty red heart in two. 
I was ten when they buried you. 
At twenty I tried to die 
And get back, back, back to you. 
I thought even the bones would do. 

But they pulled me out of the sack, 
And they stuck me together with glue. 
And then I knew what to do. 
I made a model of you, 
A man in black with a Meinkampf look 

And a love of the rack and the screw. 
And I said I do, I do. 
So daddy, I’m finally through. 
The black telephone’s off at the root, 
The voices just can’t worm through. 

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two—— 
The vampire who said he was you 
And drank my blood for a year, 
Seven years, if you want to know. 
Daddy, you can lie back now. 

There’s a stake in your fat black heart 
And the villagers never liked you. 
They are dancing and stamping on you. 
They always knew it was you. 
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

My Father’s Hats 

 By Mark Irwin 

  Sunday mornings I would reach 
high into his dark closet while standing 
   on a chair and tiptoeing reach 
higher, touching, sometimes fumbling 
   the soft crowns and imagine 
I was in a forest, wind hymning 
   through pines, where the musky scent of 
rain clinging to damp earth was 
  his scent I loved, lingering on 
bands, leather, and on the inner silk 
  crowns where I would smell his 
hair and almost think I was being 
  held, or climbing a tree, touching 
the yellow fruit, leaves whose scent 
  was that of a clove in the godsome 
air, as now, thinking of his fabulous 
  sleep, I stand on this canyon floor and 
watch light slowly close 
   on water I’m not sure is there.


FreeThinke said...

_________ A Father’s Prayer _________"

Ask not, my child, what I can do for you.
Forgive what seems like stinginess today.
A lot will be required to go through
The process of discovering the right way.
Help yourself. Don't wait for me, my child.
Each one of us must learn to stand alone.
Rich rewards like Love can't be beguiled,
Seduced or bought. They must in toil be grown.
Perhaps to you I sound a bit too stern?
Remember that I've lived a longer time.
A joy cannot exist until you earn
Your way. To do it FOR you'd be a crime.
Exacting though I seem, my little one,
Respect me now, and –– later –– you'll have fun.

~ FreeThinke - The Sandpiper

FreeThinke said...


Sundays too my father got up early

and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold

then with cracked hands that ached

from labor in the weekday weather made

banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.

When the rooms were warm, he’d call,

and slowly I would rise and dress,

fearing the chronic angers of that house.

Speaking indifferently to him,

who had driven out the cold

and polished my good shoes as well.

What did I know, what did I know

of love’s austere and lonely offices?

~ Robert Hayden (1913-1980)

FreeThinke said...

_____ To a Daughter Smitten _____

Desist, my darling dimwit; do not wed
On impulse born of weather fair this June.
No one should be by sun and roses led.
Only till you’ve weathered a typhoon,
Tornado, or at least a spate of sleet,
Will your prospective mate reveal his soul.
Easy times glide by, deny, delete
Demands that demonstrate a nature whole.
Intoxicated by the scents of spring
No common sense could nonsense overwhelm.
Joy seems imminent, yet blistering
Unhappiness might well be at the helm.
None a nun would have you be, and yet
Eden is not ours to gain, my pet.

~ FreeThinke - The Sandpiper

Shaw Kenawe said...

Thank you, Mr. Free Thinke.

I hadn't read the first one, but the second one by Robert Hayden is one of my favorites.

I had to write a paper years ago on the two poems by Roethke and Plath, comparing and contrasting them.

The third one in this post is from

FreeThinke said...

_________ A CRITIQUE _________

A rebarbative poet named Plath,
Who was filled with revulsion and wrath,
Was best known not for smiling
But rage and reviling ––
The mark of a true psychopath.

She worked herself into a lather
In an orgy of hate for her father.
The poor creature was doomed
As vile passion consumed
Her whole life, which seemed not worth the bother.

So, she stuck her poor head in the oven,
Because she knew nothing of lovin.’
If she’d been more Bourgeois,
She’d have gone to a Spa,
Forgotten her Pa, and got movin.’

The sad saga of Sylvia Plath.
For whom much distaste I do hath.
Might have ended more merrily;
I asseverate verily,
If her soul had been giv’n a hot bath!

And a diet of rich chocolate malts
Along with a good dose of salts
Administered gaily
On schedule daily
To purge her of her grievous faults!

~ Anne Animus };-)>

FreeThinke said...

Roethke's rugged piece is filled with tough-tender affection and subtle homoerotic undertones. Unlike the relentlessly bilious tone of Plath's unbridled eruption of vitriol, Roethke's poem evokes empathy and compassion.

Plath was obviously a tormented soul, and I am not without pity for her, but given the nature and tone of her undisciplined, lava0like outpouring of loathing and contempt, Plath appears totally self-absorbed and self-indulgent -- character flaws that thrive in the heart of most mentally deranged individuals.

If "Salvation" is ever to be found, surely it is most apt to be achieved if we become more interested in others than in our poor, deprived, mistreated little selves.

Shaw Kenawe said...

There isn't only one way to write poetry. Plath's poetry is fraught with Freudian symbolism and torment.

It may be a style that some dislike and reject, but there is no doubt that she was a force in American poetry.

For analyses of her "Daddy" poem, if anyone is interested, go HERE.

I wish I could find the paper I wrote on this poem. It's filed away somewhere. Maybe someday I'll find it and publish it here.

FreeThinke said...

I hope you find your paper, Miss Shaw. I'd love to read it -- even with sorely diminished eyesight.

I do not doubt the wealth of Sylvia Plath's talent; I only regret the way she squandered it on anger and self-pity.

My sentiments are best summed up in the following:

"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you're thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."

~ George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

Ms. Plath would doubtless have made better use of her considerable abilities had she been aware of the wisdom and value in Shaw's seemingly-austere-but-truly-benevolent outlook on life. - FT

Shaw Kenawe said...

"I do not doubt the wealth of Sylvia Plath's talent; I only regret the way she squandered it on anger and self-pity."

Plath suffered from depression and had attempted suicide when she was a student at Smith.

Her style of poetry is not beloved by many poetry lovers,Confessional Poetry, and many of our finest poets wrote in that style. Several of those poets also suffered from depression throughout their lives:

Robert Lowell (bi-polar)
Ann Sexton (bi-polar, committed suicide in 1974)
W.D. Snodgrass

For a few examples.

Plath produced a fair amount of poetry for someone whose life was too short.

I remember reading The Bell Jar years ago, and I have been a reader of her poetry since then.

I even wrote a poem about her suicide, but I have no idea where it is today. I probably sent it to the trash. Oh well.

okjimm said...

yup..depression. I suffer from depression....but my Doc recommended a new foot powder and it does seem to help.

no poem from me...but I have one to share, Jim Harrison


To remember you’re alive
visit the cemetery of your father
at noon after you’ve made love
and are still wrapped in a mammalian
odor that you are forced to cherish.
Under each stone is someone’s inevitable
surprise, the unexpected death
of their biology that struggled hard, as it must.
Now to home without looking back,
enough is enough.
En route buy the best wine
you can afford and a dozen stiff brooms.
Have a few swallows then throw the furniture
out the window and begin sweeping.
Sweep until the walls are
bare of paint and at your feet sweep
until the floor disappears. Finish the wine
in this field of air, return to the cemetery
in evening and wind through the stones
a slow dance of your name visible only to birds.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Thank you for that beautiful poem, okjimm.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if more people read poetry? I think people would find it difficult to be angry with each other over politics if they read more poems like the one you left here.

FreeThinke said...

__________ Domestic Terrorists __________

The day we had mice - one brown - one grey - both tiny,
my mother screamed, then stood on the kitchen table.
I thought they were cute and wanted to play with them.
Certainly they were unique to me at three.

Father dashed in (it was Saturday),
and then rushed at them brandishing the broom.
I was glad they both got away,
scurrying toward the basement storage room.

But father soon went out, and took the lead,
and set traps baited with bits of cheddar cheese.
Afterward we found the creatures dead ––
necks crushed. I felt ill at ease.

Poor little things! All they knew was hunger.
Should hunger be a capital offense?

~ FreeThinke - 9/30/08

At least hat made some reference to my father. I hope he didn't seem cruel or insensitive? He was anything but. His only flaw, if flaw it was, was a devout adherence to the dictates of Propriety. Mice did not belong in a properly run household. Period! There was no room in his thinking to consider that little mice too might have a right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...


To be a father,
First, you have to be
A mother-f**ker.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

In professional circles, Sylvia Plath has long been a subject of conjecture. The consensus opinion is that she suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder, known for a presenting feature known as splitting – the tendency to idealize people whom they love to excess in one instance, then hate without reason or mercy in another instance. Switching between these extremes is often triggered by feelings of rejection or abandonment.

Some of the greatest artists and writers in history are people who suffered from Bipolar Disorder. I have a very close friend who was the highest achieving PhD student in the history of the University of California, who attempted suicide on the day her doctorate was awarded to her. Her poem:

To Lead a Normal Life

You rest
above the Pacific's obeisance,
green and white, frigid,
slavering over the rocks
at the tower's foot.
You can see whales from here,
says another patient.
Your mother denounces this lie.
You lie still in your cot,
bag of books and clothes untouched,
head and jaw aching
from the twenty-fourth current
to stream through your blackened brain.

Deaths and flawed resurrections
mark off the days.
Some darkness bars your way back,
blotting out the memory of the night sky
and the cold, salt-laden air.
Your soul lingers in restraints.
Trays pass; you choke over them.
You trace patterns on the yellowed wall,
cringe from the spitting scream
of your inner Stalin.

You want to lead a normal life.
People say, with a certain facile philosophy,
"Well, what is normal, really?"
Not this ache, these walls,
the ocean with its harvested whales
seen through shatterproof glass.
You want to slip between
flesh-and-bone bars.
You want to hold a knife
without longing to cut your throat;
You want hunger, desire,
to want at all.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Mr. Free Thinke, thanks for the poem. Didn't Robert Burns write one to a mouse he found in a field?

(O)CT(O)PUS, I hope your friend found some peace in her life, is doing well and still writing.

Thanks you for posting her poem.

And your haiku has so much truth in it! Thank you.