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.
POEM FOR MY FATHER
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
NOTES TOWARD AN APARTMENT STORY
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.