Poem excerpt from The Shadow of My Father's Beard by chamrickwriter randomstoryteller.com with an image of an old cricket box 1024x512

The Shadow of My Father’s Beard

Poem excerpt from The Shadow of My Father's Beard by chamrickwriter randomstoryteller.com with image of lily pads 940x788 px

It’s the small things,

After a person is gone,

That keep him alive,

For a time,

The things unnoticed

Until they rise

Out of memory’s grave.

 

My father’s beard,

Always a shadow,

Even at 5 a.m.,

Briefly bristled my cheek,

While my mother

Lilted, “Rise and shine,”

In the dark

Of day number four

For child number four

To fish with the week’s ruler

Of a 100-acre Florida lake—

A hot June field of lily pads

Floating on water,

As dark as ripened plums—

Where Old Granddaddy lurked,

King of a mythic domain

Beyond taxonomic rank.

I preferred

Picking water lilies

To plumbing the depths

For a ghost.

 

With a hook in one hand,

My father side-pinched a cricket

Between his thumb and pointer finger,

And stuck the hook,

In the back,

Just behind the head,

And threaded it,

“Like so,”

And the legs churned—

I slapped at gnats

That weren’t there.

 

Shoved in the shade

Of the boat’s middle seat,

The cricket box stayed mute,

And I wondered,

Did they know?

The cork float bobbed,

Sleep-blurring the pole

(Was it cane?)

Out of my hands;

My father grabbed it.

I looked down

And pulled hard

On the ribbons

(Were they turquoise?)

Of my mother’s straw hat

Until the brim

Flattened into flaps

On either side

Of my head—

I fancied them

Folded wings.

 

That night, he pan-fried supper

And showed us how

To bite the tip

Of a crisp bream tail

Dotted with salt

And peppery cornmeal.

 

Night after night,

The porch song wore down

As the cricket box emptied;

The last of them clung,

For no reason,

To the fine wire mesh.

Day after day,

My father iced and

Packed headless fish,

Silver-clean and fin-stiff,

In his metal chest:

Home-bound treasure

For the downstairs freezer.

 

At 5 a.m. today,

A lone cricket’s chirp

Stop-started, like a song

Skipping on vinyl,

And boxed me in,

Irked,

Until I passed my hands,

Moist with coconut oil and sweat,

Over my face,

The faint scent of Florida—

And the summer of

Seersucker over blouses and shorts

With grown-up back zippers

And rick-rack trim,

And my father reaching out

To pluck a pale water lily,

Out of purple water,

Just for me.

 

 

 

 

 

9 Comments

  1. Dan Hise

    Busy day for the old professor.

    Child, you are on a roll. That is a marvelous poem. Lord a mercy! I bow before thee. Alchemical.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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