poem for Father's Day

John Gould rowing in Oxford, ca. 1995


Father’s Day.  Here’s a quiet hallway.
Grandpa’s twilit apartment
on Delaware Street.
Cozy, gemutlichkeit, OK.

Grandma’s old Revolutionary print
over the dining table.
George Washington & nimble
Lafayette – their filial détente

confirmed in pizzicato minuet.
Grandpa’s brass cannon
shell shines dans le coin
Et nous voilà, sieur Lafayette.

So the crimson seal in melting wax
like Hamlet’s father’s ring
purls out, expanding
into undiscovered final acts –

Pacific reconciliations, palm-
print circumferences...
the moss-green salience
of Liberty’s majestic calm.

The Son of Man looks to his father
as to an anchorage –
firm stay against dry rage,
banal amnesia, unruly weather;

history would lose its thread
& be estranged, without
a commonality of thought,
that human constancy – dead


center of the curly sprout
who springs up (fed
by seedy Shakespeare’s Head)
to brazen River of the Holy Spirit

(Father of Waters).  Before all times
the soul looks out in joy
upon a wide Creation Day
like mossy meadowlands – rhymes

with Honest Abraham in his
absinthe mandorla – bright
JFK & MLK – light-foot
Truth come marching in (this

copper seal of Peaceable Kingdom).
Light of fathers everywhere,
the milky dawn-lair
of the race, breathing soul freedom

like whisper of Lipsanothek
(cross-braced in elephant
ivory from distant
Brescia) – a life made perfect

sustenance.  So a little acorn
from William’s Catholic Oak
(in windy Providence) spoke
to me once, as father to son;

as a green man in emerald coat
smiles from a heart of sunny
gold, so dauntless – funny!
Lifting my heart to his coracle-boat.


John Gould, U.S. Navy, 1945

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