From the Vault (Father’s Day Edition): ‘POEM FOR MY FATHER’ & ‘NOTES TOWARD AN APARTMENT STORY’

Happy Father’s Day!

It’s been a while since the last of these ‘From the Vault’ posts, but here it is: number 4 (and number 5, really) in this series of revisited  poems from previous collections. Today’s piece, given the occasion, is dedicated to my Dad.

As noted in the earlier instances of these ‘From the Vault’ posts, I’ve always been a compulsive revisor of poems. Lately, I’ve been consciously re-visiting (and subsequently revising) a number of older poems.

In some cases, the revisions are as minor as a punctuation change; others involve different physical presentations like a new breaking of lines or an overhauled stanzaic pattern / approach. There are also pieces that underwent more substantial renovation.

Below are updated versions of two poems that first appeared in  how we play at it: a list (ECW Press, 2002).  In this case, the edits include major stanzaic alternations (for instance, a move from a somewhat rigidly imposed couplet format to a single stanza), some line break changes, and some excisions / word changes.





There was nothing left — only

The notion of stones.

– “Follow Me” by James Longenbach

                i think my father

understands this; i believe

dad appreciates the idea.          or,

maybe, rather, it is the motion

of stones he admires. that slow internal. a cool

quiet sex; its firm paradoxical,

ending.          i have walked, will walk,

am walking the shores

of beaches, of lakes — their

stones. they play possum most times — involved,

at most, most instants, in

a geological game of frozen tag.          it is

only in the weeks and years that

follow that i notice their hidden dancing.

(as immediacy’s, like familiarity,

a terrible judge of rhythm.)          this too,

is how parents have aged,

will age, are ageing: seemingly

static, they hardly move; move

in the end, to

a granite — a polished marble posing, steady

and cool.




                                                it could begin, this sketch

of our basement building, with how

we – in medias res, my father and i – emerge. day’s-end

ghosted with sprinklings

of plaster; scaling the back stairs’ green-carpeted well;

my allergic dust-cough hacking out

the backdoor’s failing, its dusk-screened evening

light, like a confused dog’s announcement

of morning.                           or, with the decision –

we’ll say it took place

at the dining room table (the bills, scattered shingles of mail, all

shovelled aside and coffee cup-pyloned)

–  with the graph paper pact

to build the thing, to frame that space, at all.                                or maybe

with no words, as such: simply the felt-penned diagrams –

the rasp shuffle of paper,

a father’s near silent geometry?                        or, perhaps,

all things considered, it should begin after the fact.

start with the pine shelf, all

six feet by three feet by ten inches, varnished and still there,

these four years since i’ve moved from the province, my brother’s

snapshots now tacked to its sides.                   but

here’s a thought: to begin – an appendix: a catalogue

of excisions, the things we left

others to do: like the plumbing and wiring  – the real guts of the chore,

knowing full well

that was not our forte. knowing too well

that most things we do, whether we wish them or not, become

in the end a mere list

of deferrals, a counting of spaces. like left-over linoleum:

the spilt-shuffled tile puzzle of what’s been, been left, been left

out: to stand, or to sit in a place.

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