Monday, October 20, 2008

Duke Altum's POTM #65

I was not familiar with this poet (Jonathan Holden), but this poem about the mystery and awe surrounding a father through the eyes of a son really struck me... the father/son relationship (as I was just discussing with a sibling of mine recently) is nothing if not complex, and I could relate to this poet's not being entirely sure where he stood at times with his old man... the fact that my own old man was a quiet, thoughtful, logical, 'half-German' scientist too (though not really a handyman) probably helps in that regard... anyway, it's a great example of how a poem can be universal, despite the very personal and specific subject matter that informs it. Pretty sobering last two lines!!


The Scientist

Other fathers might cuss out a lawnmower
that wouldn't catch. Or kick the car.
Mine would simply stop. A physicist, he'd stop
and think awhile, his breath wheezing
through his nose-hiss and hiss, mechanical
until, abruptly, a solution clicked.
Then, step by step, arranging parts
in the sequence they'd come loose,
he'd direct at our lawnmower a logic
even that sullen machine could not refute.
Then, just as systematically, refit
each wrench upon its pegboard silhouette,
re-index every drill bit, every nail—
this small, half-German intellectual
who, although he'd own no gun himself,
let me wear twin Lone Ranger cap pistols
on each hip. You couldn't tell
just what he thought of you. Had he hated
us, he wouldn't have shown it. When,
in that reasoning, mildly troubled tone
of his that meant he might
be disappointed in his son, he once explained,
In war, people hurt with tools,
I shuddered. You couldn't imagine what
he might invent. He was a patient man.

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