Happy Father’s Day from GCP to all of the fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, and all of the wonderful men who give fatherly love and direction to children who may not be theirs by birth but are theirs by choice. Here are some poems and thoughts about fatherhood.
Those Winter Sundays
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
The Sign in My Father’s Hands
The beer company
did not hire Blacks or Puerto Ricans,
so my father joined the picket line
at the Schaefer Beer Pavilion, New York World’s Fair,
amid the crowds glaring with canine hostility.
But the cops brandished nightsticks
and handcuffs to protect the beer,
and my father disappeared.
In 1964, I had never tasted beer,
and no one told me about the picket signs
torn in two by the cops of brewery.
I knew what dead was: dead was a cat
overrun with parasites and dumped
in the hallway incinerator.
I knew my father was dead.
I went mute and filmy-eyed, the slow boy
who did not hear the question in school.
I sat studying his framed photograph
like a mirror, my darker face.
Days later, he appeared in the doorway
grinning with his gilded tooth.
Not dead, though I would come to learn
that sometimes Puerto Ricans die
in jail, with bruises no one can explain
swelling their eyes shut.
I would learn too that “boycott”
is not a boy’s haircut,
that I could sketch a picket line
on the blank side of a leaflet.
That day my father returned
from the netherworld
easily as riding the elevator to apartment 14-F,
and the brewery cops could only watch
in drunken disappointment.
I searched my father’s hands
for a sign of the miracle.
The Only Thing I Have
For my grandfather Jose Francisco Aybar
And this is how I remember him:
with a business card plus two pictures,
which I place side by side, next to my own.
With slick black hair, mine curls into question marks;
thick, full eye brows; a rounded chin like lemon rind;
with lips like cracks creeping into the wall
of his mouth and a suggested smile
also like mine—through eyes dizzied with love
The similarities melt into something
undiscovered and unknown.
The card: Mecánico Perito en Reparaciones
de Maquinas de Coser, indicates a life seasoned
by levers, foot controls and the wild buzz
of needles. The work is guaranteed, unlike
the card. It will never guess it is a broken promise.
It will never know
it is the only thing I have that he has touched.
Gustavo Adolfo Aybar
* * * * *
I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.
When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in 7 years.
In the baby lies the
future of the world.
Mother must hold the baby close
so that the baby knows it is his
world but the father must take him to
the highest hill so that he can see
what his world is like.
– Mayan Indian Proverb
Every father should remember one day his son will follow his example not his advice