Poetry+ Friday

I am reposting this, in its entirety from Mary Pierce Brosmer’s blog yesterday. I have her permission, of course. There’s so much to love about this, I don’t know where to begin.

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April As Usual is the Tenderest Month

April was arguably our father’s favorite month, as the garden was ready to be plowed and a few hearty plants set out, seeds planted. Mushroom hunting soon to follow, and his birthday on the 26th. April sweetness for him has created a bittersweetness for me since his death—- just shy of his favorite season— in February of 1990.

Today, quite by “accident,” I was thinking of a friend I made in collaborating on some work with hospice care-givers and bereavement staff, and found a piece he wrote after being recognized and “pinned” with a lapel flag at a conference.

http://www.aahpm.org/apps/blog/?author=20

My great relief at reading Patrick’s take on the chirpy-sentimental way we treat veterans, to the deficit of REALLY honoring them, prompted me to want to thank my father, a veteran of the air war over Germany in WWII, for the basic training he gave me in how to hold space for all manner of opposites, love and fear among them. One of many gifts: a passion for truth-telling, love of the written word, a healthy skepticism for authority figures, gravitas, singing the Great American Song Book, respect for the intelligence of women and girls. Earl Keith, Captain Pierce, Dad, thank you. Your spirit hovers close for better, and for continued learning.

For My Father


I.
This morning, making breakfast,
I did more than think of you,
I was in the yellow kitchen
of my childhood with you,
Daddy, making soft-boiled eggs
the way you taught me.

Did you know then, can
you know now, if I tell you,
from the safe distance
of my woman’s kitchen,
how much was at stake for me
then, cooking for you,
performing the exacting tasks
I had so little talent for:

spoon-lowering eggs
into the center of the rolling boil
at just the right moment
so they wouldn’t crack,

tapping each hot egg
with a table knife, the way
you showed me,

sliding it delicately around the shell
probing for globes of yolk
and the soft—I prayed not runny—
whites.

Did you know how I dreaded, Daddy,
the telling click-tink of shell in bowl
which would betray my clumsiness?

Not that you would hit, or even scold
me for such a tiny failure,
but that you would smile
that wry, sad, but somehow satisfied
smile that said you were disappointed

disappointed but not surprised, for
already, Daddy, it was becoming clear,
as people used to say, that I was not
“the right kind of woman,”

not like the deft kitchen women we
both loved: my mother and yours.

II.
I remember, it seems silly now,
when you came home from work
with the recipe for your friend, Vick’s
daughter, Susie’s molasses cookies.

So delicious you said
Susie’s cookies were
so sweet and so dark.

I hurried to bake a batch, my first.
And when f finally the rows of cookies
lay cooling on the table
you passed through the kitchen
and smiled, “they don’t look like Susie’s”
was all you said, and didn’t taste one.

III.
To this day, Daddy, I’m no gifted cook,
though, like my mother and yours
I have learned to feed those
who find their way to my kitchen.

I’m better, Daddy,
at poems than cookies—
or eggs.

I sent you one, poem that is,
you never said,
but if you read it,
how did you find it:?

Too dark this time
but still not sweet enough?

IV.
I write to thank you, Daddy,
for all you taught me
in the yellow kitchen.

It comes in handy now.

There is an art to lowering myself
into the rolling boil at just the right
moment, so I won’t crack,

running a knife around my
soft insides is delicate, dangerous
work, but I have much practice,
excellent training.

Even my old knack for
for shattering shells
serves me well.

V.
Won’t you come to my kitchen,
Daddy?

Sit at my table and let me use
my woman’s, mother’s poet’s
daughter’s skills

to crack you open
shatter your shell.

Won’t you let me find you inside,
good Daddy, gold sun,
broken or whole,

I would love you if you’d let me,
my father, my center,
my yolk, my yoke.