On The Death of a Father
I was schooled well before he died, able at least
to feel what others felt when their fathers
were deceased. Able but not willing
and not without despair to glimpse the man
who’d hide the truth of just how much he cared.
My argent truth was fulsome gloom,
moribund and drear, my face a patent emptiness
occluding every tear; I’d gone to view him in his bier
and hoped he wasn’t there.
Driven to be reassured with no idea
of what I’d see, uncertain in my gnawing fear,
lead to where they said he rested comfortably,
– a wasted corpse too small to fill the space
the giant of my admiring youth had easily
displaced; it wore my father’s face disgraced
in modest death; a crushing disappointment,
a jest, I knew at once it was another
in his place. The man I loved for patience
and simplicity was clearly somewhere else instead,
yet dead, yet dead, oh most implacably.
Our sombre deed that day was one and last
for our departed Dad, we wore his coffin
on our rounded shoulders to its grave,
a coruscating scar before our heavy paths,
its blinding light a-thunder in our dismal thoughts,
our sight assailed with shattered shards that
charred the metaphors we brought to hear,
the metaphors we wrought with care,
the loving icons of our youth we fraught
to share and bury with familiar treasures
vested there. I fear I did not cry that night,
I did not dare.
This dismal place I hide my grief is crowded shame,
my father would have taught me tame my trembling lips
without contempt, face far constraints tight-lipped,
remain serene; I dream how well I played his silent game.
The years that separate me from the choke-voiced son
who spoke his Father’s eulogy with clumsy tongue
cleared the final clod of filial uncertainty. I know
my sons as one who loves, and know and feel
their love for me. In memories of a father whom
we laid to rest in strident peace and nascent piety
I see the vibrant image of the golden ones;
I so regret I never said how much I loved you
Dad, and so lament that you, Norman Frank Luke,
never spoke candidly of how much you loved too.
© I.D. Carswell