Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mr. Fred's Poetry Corner: My Father

(Something autobiographical perhaps?)

My Father

My father, a complex man, still alive as of this writing.
Likes music, if you can call it that, opera mostly,
Gilbert and Sullivan, a favorite, not a good sign that.
The nicest thing he ever said to me:
“You know? I’ve noticed that the records you play are a lot better than the crap I hear on the radio.” Not a rock fan, generally. Jazz he found annoying.

A reader too, complex stuff, the classics.
Thomas Hardy, the whole boring lot of them.
Was known to read Thomas Mann in German back in the day, laboriously but with obvious interest, he might still, when nobody is looking.
Showing off? Probably, to the only significant other, himself.

Not exactly a fan of homosexuals, but tolerant in his old fashioned way.
“Who cares, it’s not a big deal. If Walt Whitman came through that door right now
I’d run up and give him a hug.”
I had queer friends, he was unfailingly gracious, maybe he didn’t care at all,
At least he wasn’t willing to throw away all of the wondrous gifts of homo artists down through history, odds are that’s where it started, the tolerance, seemed to have grown into a general acceptance. I guess that’s a good thing.

He was a good provider, money anyway, brought home the bacon.
Handsome? I don’t know, he takes a good picture.
Unfailingly charming, with other people at least,
And sometimes charming at home too, he was, although the other effort must have left him somewhat debilitated, from all indications.

He didn’t need our validation, I see that now, got more than enough at work.
Not work, his “Career,” an engineer, loved burning coal, built power-plants, boilers big as city blocks, driving in Jersey he’d point them out, “see the black smoke over there? number two boiler, see the other two? clear as a bell. No one ever figured out why number two burns black.”

We’d love to have seen more of him, but he was a busy man after all.
I remember one time after he retired, I was at his house for some reason and the phone rang, the old kind with the wire, you had to stand right there to talk.
My mother, may her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace, amen, answered the phone, she was kind of excited,
My father took the call, it was an engineer in Finland, no less, they were designing a power generating facility that was to burn peat, not the best fuel, but cheap and they had a lot of it, he’d met my father somewhere or other, Spain? China? and he wanted to bounce some ideas off him, they talked for about forty minutes.

Do I sound proud? I am, I admit it, but not inordinately so.
We’d love to have seen more of him, but we had limited interest to him,
We’d overstayed our welcome, just a hysterical woman and two mere children, he had things to do, places to go, people to see. My mother-in-law was convinced that he had a second family to attend to. That I doubt, the family part, he’d had that up to here, the family part anyway.

A man of many talents, he can eat any chili you hand him like normal people eat cherries, and he likes them all too.
Never known to sing, never played an instrument, all sport was denied him by fate (except to watch others play).
The drafting table was his chess board, drawings that in their execution would weigh a quarter of a million tons, and burn clear, it was to be hoped.

He’s still alive, as of this writing. Lives in New Mexico now, a long story.
I still make the pilgrimage sometimes, went last month, ten time zones.
He lives alone, drives every day, cooks, reads, watches TV, he’s eighty-seven.
We both remember everything, but we never, ever compare notes about anything except newspaper humorists from the Twenties and Thirties, the Penn Relays, German verbs, poets, what we’re drinking these days, winners of track medals at the1968 Olympics, the old Gillette Friday Night Fights, especially Gene Fulmer and Willie Pep, cars, anything to keep us smiling, like two old school chums, you’d hardly know we’re related except for the resemblance.

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