A Poem For His Father Poem by Gary Witt

A Poem For His Father

Rating: 4.5

He’d grown quite tired by then, but still he tried
To appease or even please that ghost whose voice
Pursued him, critical of every move—
Pursued him easily, relentlessly;

A spectral helicopter hovering high
Above him, searchlight showering him in white,
As, trapped inside its shifting spot, he ran,
The voice reverberating in his ears.

But worse, it knew exactly what to say
To sink his heart and overthrow his mind
With crippling catalogues of ridicule.
And so he wrote…in hopes of being healed…and,

Stirred by family stories of one other,
Who threw this hammer—this one—at the mother.

He learned one more detail about that other:
He’d died too early but not soon enough,
And now lies silent in an unmarked grave—
Because the voice refused him any stone.

And so he wrote, and so the voice kept on;
Its arbitrary taunting would not yield,
And written words stacked high could not abate
This feeling that he’d never quite succeed.

He tried to have an understanding ear,
To listen for the mind behind the voice;
To call a truce; to show some sympathy;
To cry for one who gave what he received.

But Sympathy refused these mourning clothes,
And smiling, firmly forced the coffin closed.

fanniesson - 01 March 2007

I enjoyed this one You described this man prefect fathers, yours, others, or heard of are always a good target for the muse.

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Gary, the rhythmic language here is stunning, as is the portrait you painted of this complex relationship...a little like Turgenev's _Father and Sons_....beautiful.

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Haunting, brilliantly written, appropriate flow to boot. Many will relate to this. That reflected inner voice of the taunting patriarch knowing 'exactly what to say' - oh yep. The voice internalised producing inner guilt and feeling of impotence rings all too true. t x

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Tom J. Mariani 15 October 2007

Powerful images in this poem. Based on my personal experience with relatives who have 'lingered' for several days before death takes them, your line 'He'd died too early but not soon enough.' grabs me the strongest. The rest of what is going on in your poem makes this line much more complex than just that. You final two lines have me rethinking what I thought you just said in the rest of the poem. You got me racing to the top to read it again and again. That's what good poems do to me. Here's one of mine for you. It's more compressed than yours. Stopped In The Final Round My Dad never planned to drop his left hand and have a right cross come crashing in. My Dad never planned to drop. My Dad never planned. My Dad, my Dad. --------Copyright The TomCat Petaluma CA 1992

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Hans Ostrom 10 November 2007

I really enjoyed this one. It deftly captures how haunted many fathers and sons are by a feeling of unworthiness. Well done.

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Cynthia Buhain-baello 15 February 2012

This is my second post for this comment - the first must have been buried with the coffin. I find the poem excellently expressed -and the conflict of father/son relationship so intensely depicted. The last line really got me.

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Cynthia Buhain-baello 15 February 2012

Excellent poetry, a portrayal of father-son conflict in life, expressed so naturally it leaves assumptions open for the reader.

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Roy Gotaas 14 July 2010

If I say 'Yes, I've been there too, Gary' then we both know your poem has worked? The love-hate relationship between father & son (which was never resolved for me since he died when I was 15) is something I haven't touched on yet in my own poetic work; but I think now I will, encouraged by what you're achieved here. So, it worked on that level too!

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Tsira Goge 03 March 2008

Gary, ' But Sympathy refused these mourning clothes, And smiling, firmly forced the coffin closed. ' Strong work, charming, unexpected beautiful the ending.... Tsira

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This was so well-written. The parent relationship is so complex, so open to interpretations, and often hard.

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