Fishing with my Father, 1970
He’d have a Pall Mall hanging loosely from his lips,
his eyes squinted tight behind sunglasses.
That habit he had of moving his head to the left
to shake back the sun-bleached hair that fell
from a side-ways part. Old dark green
boat shoes on his feet, holding the bamboo pole.
1970, probably. I can remember how it felt
to be small and unknowing. This man
who was everything good and true,
bigger than the sun, wider than the water.
His instruction so tender and slow,
taking the hook and the worm, baiting my hook.
My father, squatting behind me,
his tanned hands placed over mine so tiny,
we cast the line into the quiet lake.
Promptly impatient, I needed your steady
slowness to keep me still until
we had a tug, a heavy signal from
underneath where it was always dark.
Then dad pulled hard and the bamboo bent.
Out of the water sprang a mid-sized fish.
Dad was smiling, so I smiled back, until
he removed the hook and threw the creature
in a big red plastic bucket behind.
My even then poetic soul, was thrown.
Panicked by the death of anything living,
I remember begging and crying, “Throw him
back! He can’t breath!” And my father laughed.
That made me cry more because it broke
my heart. But he saved my fish.
Shaking his head at my silly indulgence.
That was the conflict that lasted a life.
My father intolerant of my different way of
being a human being–someone beyond your
self-imposed, limiting scope that meant fatherhood.
Where did my poetic, vagabond soul come from?
I have seen your paintings and have your jazz albums.
As I age, my face is more yours.
My one-liner sarcasm comes from your habit
made mine. Sometimes I catch myself clenching
my jaw, holding it all in just like you. And as my
beauty and health start packing, I recognize your pride
pulsating through the pronounced veins I got from you.