(after “To My Father” by Diane DiPrima,
I think you were on your way to me . . .
and then you were gone. Goodbye, Father.
I remember rumors of you, but not you—not
the real you. You were only a photograph.
Then a passing-through one late, far year.
Beyond the possibility, Father. I was a child beyond
my childhood. I sat on your lap and tried to return
to you, but you were not there. You could not
hold me. We missed each other by one lifetime.
No, two. We missed each other by two.
Better the myth than the reality after all—
I am a myth, too, to you. I mourned you too long—
a mythical daughter with an abandonment phobia.
Yours, Father—yours that filtered through
all others. I turned off my emotions for them.
I would not love anyone who left me.
My father is an old rumor.
Where is he now,
his lifelong disappearance
Life goes one way by itself.
What if my life had held him?
Father, I name you ghost.
Ghost-Father. Haunt. Haunt.
HE PONDERS HIS LIFE
All night he lives with his imaginary wife and child, and is
both happy and not happy. He does not know how deep
to believe. He does not let himself answer. He does not
know whether to stay, or to abandon them. He ponders
their bewilderment and imagines himself in some other
arms and feels guilty. How could he be so unfaithful.
Chastened, he returns to them until he feels redeemed
then loses himself to the sleep that always overtakes him.
LEGACY OF BLAME
who was Adam
had one weakness;
he was acquiescent.
And he died
blaming my mother
for his chronic
(first pub. in The Muse, 1961)
My father didn’t love me
so I broke his mirror.
Now he hides
in broken glass
and still does not love me.
I forgive the mirror.
POEM FOR LAURA, DISAPPROVED OF
BY HER FATHER
It will be all right;
I have had this premonition
in a burst of bird song
on a bright day
which had been overcast
a moment before
and no bird had been visible
or heard all season.
You may approach your father
as your self;
he will approve now;
he will be changed,
and you can love him again.
He will say,
“Bless you, bless you.”
It will be okay.
(first pub. in Poetry Now, 2005)
THE SEVERANCE LINE
oh the boat with its endless people
goes forth to drown
goes forth to tip over and spill them
gasping and thrashing down
all the children and fathers and
mothers and friends who cannot swim
look how they dazzle the water
with their startled eyes
and there the boat lies
upside down looking for them
and the water stares quietly back
growing sleepy in the sun
(first pub. in The Wormwood Review, 1973)
My father in a soft moonlight,
waiting for some dream to waken him . . .
I listen to him crying
but he doesn’t know I am his daughter.
He suffers from failure—that, and some
lost love. My imagination cannot save him.
He stares at a small gray river.
The water-moon quivers his face.
He thinks that love has abandoned him.
My mother stands watching from
her own sad distance—I look
from one to the other and cry out to them.
At once I know them
—by their weeping.
Voices abandoned by souls,
by fathers—by time itself .
Why do I love them—still
—patiently—in spite of—
these haunted voices.
And I listen, whisper. Answer?
of madness and confusion
fathers the embittered mind,
still following some well-worn
trail as stale as the crumbs
it left behind . . .