Father

F
White Apples by Donald Hall
Donald Hall
when my father had been dead a week
I woke
with his voice in my ear
I sat up in bed
and held my breath
and stared at the pale closed door

white apples and the taste of stone

if he called again
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Follower by Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney
My father worked with a horse-plough,
His shoulders globed like a full sail strung
Between the shafts and the furrow.
The horses strained at his clicking tongue.

An expert. He would set the wing
And fit the bright steel-pointed sock.
The sod rolled over without breaking.
At the headrig, with a single pluck
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Silence for My Father by Deena Metzger
Deena Metzger
This is the silence around the poem of the death of my father.
This is the silence before the poem.

While my father was dying, the Challenger was exploding on TV
Again and again. I watched it happen. In his hospital room,
I followed his breath. Then it stopped.

This is the silence in a poem about the dying of the father.


We’re burning the earth. We’re burning the sky.

Here is another silence in the middle of the poem about the immolation of the Fathers.
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Hidden by James McMichael
James McMichael
In dogma
is the secret that renders God unconditioned,

on one condition.
“If you are not My people,
I am not your God.”
As fashioned by His people's witness,

a made thing,
God,
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Autobiography in the Year 1952 by Yehuda Amichai
Yehuda Amichai
My father built a great worry around me like a dock
Once I left it before I was finished
And he remained with his great, empty worry.
And my mother—like a tree on the shore
Between her arms outstretched for me.

And in '31 my hands were merry and small
And in '41 they learned to use a rifle
And when I loved my first love
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Epicedium to Potter’s Field by Frank Lima
Frank Lima
My father was
A blossom,
And I was his fragile
Epiphyte on his
Days off.
The purple
Dogs of years
Gone by
Watch him smile
At the horizon.
His feretory
Catches the
Rain from the
Smoldering sky.
These fields are
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The Old Man's Complaints. And how he gained them by Robert Southey
Robert Southey

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
The few locks which are left you are grey;
You are hale, Father William, a hearty old man,
Now tell me the reason I pray.

In the days of my youth, Father William replied,
I remember'd that youth would fly fast,
And abused not my health and my vigour at first
That I never might need them at last.

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
And pleasures with youth pass away,
And yet you lament not the days that are gone,
Now tell me the reason I pray.
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Two by Ted Kooser
Ted Kooser
On a parking lot staircase
I met two fine-looking men
descending, both in slacks
and dress shirts, neckties
much alike, one of the men
in his sixties, the other
a good twenty years older,
unsteady on his polished shoes,
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To His Dead Body by Siegfried Sassoon
Siegfried Sassoon
When roaring gloom surged inward and you cried,
Groping for friendly hands, and clutched, and died,
Like racing smoke, swift from your lolling head
Phantoms of thought and memory thinned and fled.

Yet, though my dreams that throng the darkened stair
Can bring me no report of how you fare,
Safe quit of wars, I speed you on your way
Up lonely, glimmering fields to find new day,
Slow-rising, saintless, confident and kind—
Dear, red-faced father God who lit your mind.
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Stanzas Ending with the Same Two Words by Frank Bidart
Frank Bidart
At first I felt shame because I had entered
through the door marked Your Death.

Not a valuable word written
unsteeped in your death.

You are the ruin whose arm encircles the young woman
at the posthumous bar, before your death.

The grass is still hungry
above you, fed by your death.
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Cement Backyard by Lynne Sharon Schwartz
Lynne Sharon Schwartz
My father had our yard cemented over.
He couldn’t tell a flower from a weed.
The neighbors let their backyards run to clover
and some grew dappled gardens from a seed,

but he preferred cement to rampant green.
Lushness reeked of anarchy’s profusion.
Better to tamp the wildness down, unseen,
than tolerate its careless brash intrusion.
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At the New Year by Kenneth Patchen
Kenneth Patchen
In the shape of this night, in the still fall
of snow, Father
In all that is cold and tiny, these little birds
and children
In everything that moves tonight, the trolleys
and the lovers, Father
In the great hush of country, in the ugly noise
of our cities
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Three Hundred Thousand More by James Sloan Gibbons
James Sloan Gibbons
We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more,
From Mississippi's winding stream, and from New England's shore;
We leave our ploughs and workshops, our wives and children dear,
With hearts too full for utterance, with but a silent tear;
We dare not look behind us, but steadfastly before:
We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more!

If you look across the hill tops that meet the Northern sky,
Long moving lines of rising dust your vision may descry;
And now the wind, an instant, tears the cloudy vail aside,
And floats aloft our spangled flag, in glory and in pride,
And bayonets in the sunlight gleam, and bands brave music pour:
We are coming Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more!

If you look all up your valleys, where the growing harvests shine,
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Ancestral Lines by David Ferry
David Ferry
It’s as when following the others’ lines,
Which are the tracks of somebody gone before,
Leaving me mischievous clues, telling me who

They were and who it was they weren’t,
And who it is I am because of them,
Or, just for the moment, reading them, I am,

Although the next moment I’m back in myself, and lost.
My father at the piano saying to me,
“Listen to this, he called the piece Warum?”

And the nearest my father could come to saying what
He made of that was lamely to say he didn’t,
Schumann didn’t, my father didn’t, know why.
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Counting Backwards by Linda Pastan
Linda Pastan
How did I get so old,
I wonder,
contemplating
my 67th birthday.
Dyslexia smiles:
I’m 76 in fact.

There are places
where at 60 they start
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Beginning with 1914 by Lisel Mueller
Lisel Mueller
Since it always begins
in the unlikeliest place
we start in an obsolete country
on no current map. The camera
glides over flower beds,
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Rain by Peter Everwine
Peter Everwine
Toward evening, as the light failed
and the pear tree at my window darkened,
I put down my book and stood at the open door,
the first raindrops gusting in the eaves,
a smell of wet clay in the wind.
Sixty years ago, lying beside my father,
half asleep, on a bed of pine boughs as rain
drummed against our tent, I heard
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The Zebra Goes Wild Where the Sidewalk Ends by Henry Dumas
Henry Dumas
I
Neon stripes tighten my wall
where my crayon landlord hangs
from a bent nail.

My black father sits crooked
in the kitchen
drunk on Jesus’ blood turned
to cheap wine.
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At the Air and Space Museum by Linda Pastan
Linda Pastan
When I was
nearly six my

father

opened his magic

doctor bag:

two

tongue depressors fastened by

a rubber
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From a Photograph by George Oppen
George Oppen
Her arms around me—child—
Around my head, hugging with her whole arms,
Whole arms as if I were a loved and native rock,
The apple in her hand—her apple and her father,
and my nose pressed
Hugely to the collar of her winter coat—. There
in the photograph

It is the child who is the branch
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A Letter of Recommendation by Yehuda Amichai
Yehuda Amichai
On summer nights I sleep naked
in Jerusalem. My bed
stands on the brink of a deep valley
without rolling down into it.

In the daytime I walk around with the Ten
Commandments on my lips
like an old tune someone hums to himself.

Oh touch me, touch me, good woman!
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Sabbath lie by Yehuda Amichai
Yehuda Amichai
On Friday, at twilight of a summer day
While the smells of food and prayer rose from every house
And the sound of the Sabbath angels’ wings was in the air,
While still a child I started to lie to my father:
“I went to another synagogue.”

I don’t know if he believed me or not
But the taste of the lie was good and sweet on my tongue
And in all the houses that night
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Father, Where Do the Wild Swans Go? by Ludvig Holstein
Ludvig Holstein
Father, where do the wild swans go?
Far, far. Ceaselessly winging,
Their necks outstraining, they haste them singing
Far, far. Whither, none may know.

Father, where do the cloud-ships go?
Far, far. The winds pursue them,
And over the shining heaven strew them
Far, far. Whither, none may know.

Father, where do the days all go?
Far, far. Each runs and races—
No one can catch them, they leave no traces—
Far, far. Whither, none may know.

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Boy and Father by Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg
The boy Alexander understands his father to be a famous lawyer.
The leather law books of Alexander’s father fill a room like hay in a barn.
Alexander has asked his father to let him build a house like bricklayers build, a house with walls and roofs made of big leather law books.

The rain beats on the windows
And the raindrops run down the window glass
And the raindrops slide off the green blinds down the siding.

The boy Alexander dreams of Napoleon in John C. Abbott’s history, Napoleon the grand and lonely man wronged, Napoleon in his life wronged and in his memory wronged.
The boy Alexander dreams of the cat Alice saw, the cat fading off into the dark and leaving the teeth of its Cheshire smile lighting the gloom.

Buffaloes, blizzards, way down in Texas, in the panhandle of Texas snuggling close to New Mexico,
These creep into Alexander’s dreaming by the window when his father talks with strange men about land down in Deaf Smith County.
Alexander’s father tells the strange men: Five years ago we ran a Ford out on the prairie and chased antelopes.

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Lawyer and Child by James Whitcomb Riley
James Whitcomb Riley
How large was Alexander, father,
That parties designate
The historic gentleman as rather
Inordinately great?

Why, son, to speak with conscientious
Regard for history,
Waiving all claims, of course, to heights pretentious,—
About the size of me.
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The Little Boy Lost by William Blake
William Blake
Father, father, where are you going
O do not walk so fast.
Speak father, speak to your little boy
Or else I shall be lost,

The night was dark no father was there
The child was wet with dew.
The mire was deep, & the child did weep
And away the vapour flew.
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My Father by Jessie B. Rittenhouse
Jessie B. Rittenhouse
My father was a tall man and yet the ripened rye
Would come above his shoulders, the spears shot up so high.

My father was a tall man and yet the tasseled corn
Would hide him when he cut the stalks upon a frosty morn.

The green things grew so lushly in the valley of my birth,
Where else could one witness the luxuriance of earth?

The plow would turn so rhythmically the loose, unfettered loam,
There was no need of effort to drive the coulter home.

My father walked behind his team before the sun was high,
Fine as a figure on a frieze cut sharp against the sky.

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Lines—— by Hartley Coleridge
Hartley Coleridge
I have been cherish’d and forgiven
By many tender-hearted,
’Twas for the sake of one in Heaven
Of him that is departed.

Because I bear my Father’s name
I am not quite despised,
My little legacy of fame
I’ve not yet realized.

And yet if you should praise myself
I’ll tell you, I had rather
You’d give your love to me, poor elf,
Your praise to my great father.

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His father carved umbrella handles... by Charles Reznikoff
Charles Reznikoff
His father carved umbrella handles, but when umbrella
handles were made by machinery, there was only one
man for whom his father could work.
The pay was small, though it had once been a good trade.
They lived in the poorest part of the ghetto, near the lots
where people dump ashes.
His father was anxious that his son should stay at school and
get out of the mess he himself was in. “Learning is the
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A Son with a Future by Charles Reznikoff
Charles Reznikoff
When he was four years old, he stood at the window during a
thunderstorm. His father, a tailor, sat on the table sewing.
He came up to his father and said, “I know what makes
thunder: two clouds knock together.”
When he was older, he recited well-known rants at parties.
They all said that he would be a lawyer.
At law school he won a prize for an essay. Afterwards, he
became the chum of an only son of rich people. They
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You left me – Sire – two Legacies – (713) by Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson
You left me – Sire – two Legacies –
A Legacy of Love
A Heavenly Father would suffice
Had He the offer of –

You left me Boundaries of Pain –
Capacious as the Sea –
Between Eternity and Time –
Your Consciousness – and me –
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The Potato Eaters by Leonard E. Nathan
Leonard E. Nathan
Sometimes, the naked taste of potato
reminds me of being poor.

The first bites are gratitude,
the rest, contented boredom.

The little kitchen still flickers
like a candle-lit room in a folktale.

Never again was my father so angry,
my mother so still as she set the table,
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to where by David Ferry
David Ferry
Wearing a tawny lion pelt upon
My spindly shoulders I carry both of them,
My father and my mother, into the darkness,
My father hoarsely singing, “They are there!”
—The glimmer of something that is glimmering there—
“I see the glow of weapons in the shadows!”
Through which with my purblind eyes I think I see
Something in the darkness waiting there.
Above me in the dark my mother’s voice
Calls down to me, “Who’s there? Who is it there?”
Step after step together we make our way,
In the darkness of my memory of our house.
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Adam Posed by Countess of Winchilsea Anne Finch
Countess of Winchilsea Anne Finch
Could our first father, at his toilsome plow,
Thorns in his path, and labor on his brow,
Clothed only in a rude, unpolished skin,
Could he a vain fantastic nymph have seen,
In all her airs, in all her antic graces,
Her various fashions, and more various faces;
How had it posed that skill, which late assigned
Just appellations to each several kind!
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Autumn by Grace Paley
Grace Paley
1

What is sometimes called a
tongue of flame
or an arm extended burning
is only the long
red and orange branch of
a green maple
in early Septemberreaching
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Baby Villon by Philip Levine
Philip Levine
He tells me in Bangkok he’s robbed
Because he’s white; in London because he’s black;
In Barcelona, Jew; in Paris, Arab:
Everywhere and at all times, and he fights back.

He holds up seven thick little fingers
To show me he’s rated seventh in the world,
And there’s no passion in his voice, no anger
In the flat brown eyes flecked with blood.
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Blue Juniata by Malcolm Cowley
Malcolm Cowley
Farmhouses curl like horns of plenty, hide
scrawny bare shanks against a barn, or crouch
empty in the shadow of a mountain. Here
there is no house at all—

only the bones of a house,
lilacs growing beside them,
roses in clumps between them,
honeysuckle over;
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The Bones of My Father by Etheridge Knight
Etheridge Knight
1
There are no dry bones
here in this valley. The skull
of my father grins
at the Mississippi moon
from the bottom
of the Tallahatchie,
the bones of my father
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Depression by Henry Carlile
Henry Carlile
He is pushing a black Ford
through an empty street -
a car like his father's
that beat the flat roads like wind
in summer and brought him here.

He never forgave his father.
That was the year he left home.
Then there was talk of weather
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Father by Edgar Albert Guest
Edgar Albert Guest
My father knows the proper way
The nation should be run;
He tells us children every day
Just what should now be done.
He knows the way to fix the trusts,
He has a simple plan;
But if the furnace needs repairs,
We have to hire a man.
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Father and Son by Delmore Schwartz
Delmore Schwartz
“From a certain point onward there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached.”FRANZ KAFKA Father:
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Goose by Richard Emil Braun
Richard Emil Braun
Trailing her father, bearing his hand axe,
the girl thought she had never
guessed what earthly majesty
was before

then, as he strode unconcernedly
holding a vicious gander
by the horny mitts and let
the big wings
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The Hospital Window by James L. Dickey
James L. Dickey
I have just come down from my father.
Higher and higher he lies
Above me in a blue light
Shed by a tinted window.
I drop through six white floors
And then step out onto pavement.

Still feeling my father ascend,
I start to cross the firm street,
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On My First Daughter by Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson
Here lies, to each her parents’ ruth,
Mary, the daughter of their youth;
Yet all heaven’s gifts being heaven’s due,
It makes the father less to rue.
At six months’ end she parted hence
With safety of her innocence;
Whose soul heaven’s queen, whose name she bears,
In comfort of her mother’s tears,
Hath placed amongst her virgin-train:
Where, while that severed doth remain,
This grave partakes the fleshly birth;
Which cover lightly, gentle earth!
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Ritual One by David Ignatow
David Ignatow
As I enter the theatre the play is going on.
I hear the father say to the son on stage,
You’ve taken the motor apart.
The son replies, The roof is leaking.
The father retorts, The tire is flat.
Tiptoeing down the aisle, I find my seat,
edge my way in across a dozen kneecaps
as I tremble for my sanity.
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A Song for Soweto by June Jordan
June Jordan
At the throat of Soweto
a devil language falls
slashing
claw syllables to shred and leave
raw
the tongue of the young
girl
learning to sing
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Sweet Tooth by Russell Edson
Russell Edson
A little girl made of sugar and spice and everything nice was eaten by someone with a sweet tooth the size of an elephant’s tusk.
Ah, he said, this darn tooth, it’s driving me nuts.

Then another voice is heard. It’s the little girl’s father who says, have you seen a little girl made of sugar and spice and everything nice?--Incidentally, what’s that thing sticking out of your mouth like an elephant’s tusk?
My sweet tooth, and it’s really driving me nuts.
You ought to see a dentist.
But he might want to pull it, and I don’t like people pulling at me. If they want to pull they should pull at their own pullables.
So true, said the little girl’s father, people should pull at their own pullables and let other people's pullables alone. But still, he asked again, I wonder if you’ve seen a little girl made of sugar and spice and everything nice?
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To Alexander Graham by W. S. Graham
W. S. Graham
Lying asleep walking
Last night I met my father
Who seemed pleased to see me.
He wanted to speak. I saw
His mouth saying something
But the dream had no sound.

We were surrounded by
Laid-up paddle steamers
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What Our Dead Do by Zbigniew Herbert
Zbigniew Herbert
Jan came this morning
—I dreamt of my father
he says

he was riding in an oak coffin
I walked next to the hearse
and father turned to me:

you dressed me nicely
and the funeral is very beautiful
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Snail by Ho Xuan Huong
Ho Xuan Huong
Mother and father gave birth to a snail
Night and day I crawl in smelly weeds
Dear prince, if you love me, unfasten my door
Stop, don't poke your finger up my tail!
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All My Pretty Ones by Anne Sexton
Anne Sexton
Father, this year’s jinx rides us apart
where you followed our mother to her cold slumber;
a second shock boiling its stone to your heart,
leaving me here to shuffle and disencumber
you from the residence you could not afford:
a gold key, your half of a woolen mill,
twenty suits from Dunne’s, an English Ford,
the love and legal verbiage of another will,
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from A Bibliography of the King’s Book or, Eikon Basilike by Susan Howe
Susan Howe
II. Conversion


I like to be stationary.
—Bartleby


Who is not a wild Enthusiast

in a green meadow

furious and fell

Arriving on the stage of history
I saw madness of the world
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Brother by Mary Ann Hoberman
Mary Ann Hoberman
I had a little brother
And I brought him to my mother
And I said I want another
Little brother for a change.
But she said don’t be a bother
So I took him to my father
And I said this little bother
Of a brother’s very strange.
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Carpentry by Carl Dennis
Carl Dennis
Carpenters whose wives have run off
Are sometimes discovered weeping on the job.
But even then they don’t complain of their work.

Whitman’s father was a carpenter.
He was so happy hammering houses
That he jumped with a shout from the roof beam
And rolled with a yawp in the timothy.
This led his son to conclude wrongly
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The Chimney Sweeper: When my mother died I was very young by William Blake
William Blake
When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry " 'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!"
So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep.

There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head
That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved, so I said,
"Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head's bare,
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Earth's Answer by William Blake
William Blake
Earth rais'd up her head,
From the darkness dread & drear.
Her light fled:
Stony dread!
And her locks cover'd with grey despair.

Prison'd on watry shore
Starry Jealousy does keep my den
Cold and hoar
Weeping o'er
I hear the Father of the ancient men

Selfish father of men
Cruel, jealous, selfish fear
Can delight
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The Father of My Country by Diane Wakoski
Diane Wakoski
All fathers in Western civilization must have
a military origin. The
ruler,
governor,
yes,
he is
was the
general at one time or other.
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Infant Sorrow by William Blake
William Blake
My mother groand! my father wept.
Into the dangerous world I leapt:
Helpless, naked, piping loud;
Like a fiend hid in a cloud.

Struggling in my fathers hands:
Striving against my swaddling bands:
Bound and weary I thought best
To sulk upon my mothers breast.
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Lament by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Listen, children:
Your father is dead.
From his old coats
I'll make you little jackets;
I'll make you little trousers
From his old pants.
There'll be in his pockets
Things he used to put there,
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My Father in the Night Commanding No by Louis Simpson
Louis Simpson
My father in the night commanding No
Has work to do. Smoke issues from his lips;
He reads in silence.
The frogs are croaking and the street lamps glow.

And then my mother winds the gramophone;
The Bride of Lammermoor begins to shriek—
Or reads a story—
About a prince, a castle, and a dragon.
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Native Trees by W. S. Merwin
W. S. Merwin
Neither my father nor my mother knew
the names of the trees
where I was born
what is that
I asked and my
father and mother did not
hear they did not look where I pointed
surfaces of furniture held
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O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman
O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
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Obsessive by Marvin Bell
Marvin Bell
It could be a clip, it could be a comb;
it could be your mother, coming home.
It could be a rooster; perhaps it’s a comb;
it could be your father, coming home.
It could be a paper; it could be a pin.
It could be your childhood, sinking in.

The toys give off the nervousness of age.
It’s useless pretending they aren’t finished:
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On the Beach at Night by Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman
On the beach at night,
Stands a child with her father,
Watching the east, the autumn sky.

Up through the darkness,
While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading,
Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky,
Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,
Ascends large and calm the lord-star Jupiter,
And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades.

From the beach the child holding the hand of her father,
Those burial-clouds that lower victorious soon to devour all,
Watching, silently weeps.
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The Photos by Diane Wakoski
Diane Wakoski
My sister in her well-tailored silk blouse hands me
the photo of my father
in naval uniform and white hat.
I say, “Oh, this is the one which Mama used to have on her dresser.”

My sister controls her face and furtively looks at my mother,
a sad rag bag of a woman, lumpy and sagging everywhere,
like a mattress at the Salvation Army, though with no holes or tears,
and says, “No.”
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from The Princess: Sweet and Low by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Sweet and low, sweet and low,
Wind of the western sea,
Low, low, breathe and blow,
Wind of the western sea!
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon, and blow,
Blow him again to me;
While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps.

Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
Father will come to thee soon;
Rest, rest, on mother's breast,
Father will come to thee soon;
Father will come to his babe in the nest,
Silver sails all out of the west
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43
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Song: “Full fathom five thy father lies”  by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
(fromThe Tempest) Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
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41
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Star by W. S. Merwin
W. S. Merwin
All the way north on the train the sun
followed me followed me without moving
still the sun of that other morning
when we had gone over Come on over
men at the screen door said to my father
You have to see this it’s an ape bring
the little boy bring the boy along

so he brought me along to the field
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47
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The Wreck of the Hesperus by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
It was the schooner Hesperus,
That sailed the wintry sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughtèr,
To bear him company.

Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax,
Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,
That ope in the month of May.

The skipper he stood beside the helm,
His pipe was in his mouth,
And he watched how the veering flaw did blow
The smoke now West, now South.

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Descent by Samuel Menashe
Samuel Menashe
My father drummed darkness
Through the underbrush
Until lightning struck

I take after him

Clouds crowd the sky
Around me as I run
Downhill on a high—
I am my mother's son
Born long ago
In the storm's eye
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