Fathers And Sons: The Upper Peninsula, And Elsewhere
Wednesday afternoon, October 29,2014; Wednesday, April 7,2021
'[H]is father had the finest pair of eyes he had ever seen, and Nick had loved him very much and for a long time. Now, knowing how it had all been, even remembering the earliest times before things had gone badly was not good remembering. '
- from the short story 'Fathers and Sons' by Ernest Hemingway
It happened a long time ago,
and I have only minor reservations,
disagreements, remember things
pretty much as they happened
on the upper peninsula. I enjoyed
walking across the pine needles,
camping and fishing, trying not
to think about too many things.
Things turned out badly for you.
You were, after all, a good father—
the walks through the woods,
along streams—those hawk eyes,
that white-washed cottage sitting
on the end of the peninsula. I wouldn't
change a thing: I love sheep sorrel,
mullen, killdeer plover, quail and eagles,
your eyes—how well they worked.
That high school zoology journal of yours—
the detailed insect and animal drawings:
the grasshoppers, frogs, and salamanders.
The deftness of your hand. All of this
happened a long time ago, and here I am,
a man now, talking to you in these stories.
I remember the time we visited your hometown,
fished those old streams, and visit the family
gravesite, the German side of the family.
It was the weekend before Memorial Day,
and you said spring had arrived late there,
the streams roiling with muddy rainwater,
the cemetery itself well-kept and clean.
You rested your hand on the gravestone,
said, 'Thank you' twice. I put my arm
around your shoulder as you silently
stood there, looking down, remembering.
Rivulets were cascading down nearby
hillsides, and we picked purple wildflowers
to lay on the grave. Then we walked across
the cemetery to the eastern boundary,
to a soldier's grave, and you said something.
The name on the gravestone was ‘Starr'.
I thought you knew him, but you said,
"No, I am paying my respects to him.
I've done it since childhood. He died
before I was born. He deserves..."
I knew you were doing the right thing,
showing respect, consideration, appreciation,
giving thanks, attempting reconciliation.
I want to talk more, but my own son
is sleeping here in the passenger seat,
and I am finishing up my day's run,
driving on to the next town. I'm tired.
Just before he went to sleep, he said,
'Why don't we pray at grandfather's grave? —
I don't feel good not having visited it.'
He's right, and we'll have to make a trip
to the upper peninsula sooner than later.
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Topic(s) of this poem: family,tragedy,father and son,memory,appreciation,nature,nature walks