a memory of my father

a worker in brass, my father was.
in felt, and silver, too:
a sax is then a different thing
for me as (prob’ly) you

for hours and hours out in his shop —
i still recall it clear —
my father would work with bits of brass,
and make music
appear

What Are You Looking For?

I step out into what seems like a dark warehouse. There’s light shining on one spot in the center of the room, coming from something like a skylight. As I walk towards it, I hear my father’s voice:

What exactly are you looking for?

I don’t know, man…. It’s like… I don’t know what I’m looking for.

As I reach the light, I see a black spiral notebook sitting on the floor. I pick it up and open it. Inside it are the Christmas lists my brother, sister and I gave my parents in 1971. Mine, written in my crummy nine year-old handwriting, has the following items on it:

Astrolite
The Hardy Boys: Danger on Vampire Trail
The Hardy Boys: The Yellow Feather Mystery
Fighting Knights Carry-All
Peanuts Treasury
Peanuts Classics
Giant Nerf Ball

I look around me, but the warehouse seems dark and empty.

Dad… why do you still have these lists?

Because, as the songs says, you still haven’t found what you’re looking for.

What am I looking for? Is the answer in this list?

Owen, tell me: what is in the list?

Three toys and four books.

Did you get what you wanted for Christmas that year?

Of course, Dad, you know I did. We all did. It was the first year since any of us were born that Mom had a job, too.

So money is the answer?

No.

Look at the list again.

The Hardy Boys. I read these alone. Vampire Trail was the new book. Yellow Feather was one of the older ones I was missing.

Go on.

The Peanuts books Dale and I always read together. We had worn out the church library copies and I wanted ones of my own.

And the toys?

All three of us thought the Astrolite looked cool. Fighting Knights was so I could have something like that of my own. And a Giant Nerf Ball will be awesome to play with.

So…

I looked around me. The walls of the warehouse seemed to have receded away, and I could no longer even see the floor.

… So, I don’t get what this tells me, other than that, at nine years old, I knew what I wanted for Christmas.

Let me give you a hint. How you understand the world to be is the key to your desires.

Right now, the world just seems chaotic to me.

And so you don’t know what you want.

I’ve been really depressed. I feel like a failure as a father. The pathway to happiness seems blocked for my sons. When I was nine, I dreamed of adventure, of space, of ancient times, of laughter and of play. All of that seems like such a distant memory. Now the world seems to be one of emptiness and vain temptations.

So what do you want?

I want to see hope again. I want my children to be happy.

Is that possible?

Of course it’s possible. Hope is always possible.

The lights came on, and I was back in my bedroom.

The Only Truth

I took the only truth I know
And let it go, out on the bay;
An autumn day, in years gone by —
I still cannot say why.

I took that truth, my only one,
And bade it run, or swim, or fly
To satisfy, or ratify
Some need I had for alibi —

But truth is fleeting in its grasp,
The heart we hold, the hand we clasp,
We watch just drift off in their time,
A listless-gestured pantomime —

I took the only the truth I had
Of son and dad, of dad and son,
My only one, and let it go:
But why, I do not really
Know

Shadows and Stories

Those were stories that I told
Of shadows and of fantasy:
When I was was wise, and he was small
And still thought all the world of me

But time goes on, and things grow bright;
The truth is clear to eyes like his —
That shadows cast on parking lots
Are nothing —

Like his father is

I Sometimes Wonder

I sometimes wonder what my dad would say
If he could see the way my life has gone –
I still have questions I would like to ask,
But there is nothing now he can pass on

The last time that I spoke to him, he said,
“It’s time for me to go.” – and so he went —
But with each passing day, I realize,
How much I missed, from being arrogant

For now I find, among the stacks of years,
The things he taught way back when I began:
That brains and money, both, count but for naught,
While honor is the measure of the man

I sometimes wonder what he would have said
To all the many things I could have asked —
It’s funny: he was not much for advice
Except a couple times, when really tasked —

He’d say to look ahead at what’s to come,
And not to waste a day, or waste a night:
But always to remember, in all things:
Too late, it never is,
To do what’s right