Honouring, celebrating and remembering fathers
These poems are reminders of how great and important fathers are in our lives. Meeting Ground hopes you fully experience the journey in the bouquet of poems. Happy Father's Day to our strong and beautiful fathers. A special shout-out to my dad, Oswald Lim, and my poetry fathers, Prof Mervyn Morris, Prof Eddie Baugh, Dr St Hope Earl McKenzie and always remembering Wayne Vincent Brown. Kwame Dawes, though mentor, would be considered too young to be called father (by me) –Ann-Margaret Lim.
On The Birth of My Son
No sharp screams, although after they lifted him,
his brown body covered in the soft film of clay,
he thumped the air and made sounds.
They plucked him out from the ribbons of flesh,
the neat line in her skin, with the chord
taut around his neck. And it was only in that
instant of limbs, umbilicus, slick hair
and the glare of the OR’s blue light,
the crowd in green uniforms around us,
that I knew that the fluttering in my chest
was not from the trauma, the rush, the sprint
to extract him breathing, alive, it was
the revelation of his penis, the sound
of the word, son, its alien sobering, and the rush
of every image, every fear, every silence,
every tension, every broken meaning.
– Kwame Dawes: Jamaican living in the United States – from Impossible Flying: Peepal Tree Press: 2007
On the day I was born, I met a wizard,
his big afro, like a halo.
He sometimes wore robes, sometimes dashikis
and there was fire in his face when he named me.
"Imago dei" he said;
“You are unique. You are anointed.
The divine lives within you.”
I was a toddler on his knee,
bruised forefinger raised with my wet face,
my world collapsed into the calamity
of a scratch, a slight, a need for attention.
“Woman blow” he said;
“This is pain. It is real. You are strong.
It will not best you.”
I was a teenage witness
as his hands closed around her gnarled fingers
and she leaned into him,
her desolation like scorched earth.
“Liberation love” he said;
“Stranger, you are our sister.
We will find the rain together.”
I was a seeker in the fog,
my head swivelling to every siren song,
my footfalls uncertain
until he came alongside me
“Buy truth” he said, “and do not sell it”;
“Seek wisdom. Make her your sage.
Follow her with courage.”
On the day I was born, I met a wizard.
I saw him in the pulpit and in the ghetto.
I saw him with the dignitaries
and with the sick and dying.
I saw him in the university and on the street corner.
I saw him write books and sing songs.
I saw him fight for justice and create new worlds.
But mostly, I saw him at breakfast,
when he picked me up from school,
when we composed music and wrote poetry,
when we laboured together, waist deep in service,
when he reasoned me through my choices,
when he affirmed and comforted without a word.
I see him now in our living room,
surrounded by his issue,
a wizard still speaking, still loving, still giving,
his magic twinkling in his ageing eyes.
– Makesha Evans Spence: Jamaican living in the United States
My father weaves stories
at night, right out of his head
and before our shame trees grow
and we are still of an age to scream
daddy daddy daddy!! each evening
we hear of the land-walking,
Sylvester, who terrifies tourists, waiters
and everybody who doesn’t know
(as we do) he’s pescetarian.
I hear stories of my father.
Once, that he laid on the floor
in his suit
mid- some big meeting
citing back discomfort and,
I believe it, since my father was
the only person in jeans
at my high school graduation.
My father and I share stories
and sometimes discover
in each other, truth or myth
but on our bad days, my father
and I exchange words and he
looks at this version of his face
and calls it stubborn and we
reflect each other’s darker
shadows until one of us folds
like a dinner napkin since
neither of us can take ourselves
– Rhea Manley: Jamaica
The House Tchaikovsky Built
what did he see in Tchaikovsky?
a builder, he raised houses
the downstairs garage a subconscious
subterranean workshop cave
at night a devouring electric saw growled and screamed
interfering with the TV signal upstairs
we waited for all-clear sound and vision
longing for ordinary transmission
I played punk rock on the family
stereo: anarchy in the living room
the walls rolled their eyes
a whole lot of noise
he played sarah vaughan, joe turner, louis, ella
bop debop, top 40 radio
tall and bearded crossing the room to release
music from its cover those big fingers
weather hard hands holding vinyl
ready for the 1812
my sinking heart and rolling eyes
a whole lot of noise
he taught me how to build a house
in summer when the gods are gracious
to young soldiers
the plans laid out across two workhorses
first slow and sure the digging
the mud sodden trenches for foundations
upon these the structure stands or falls
violins and handsaw the bow across
sharp sound slices rising under the great blue eyes
the floor a violent passion nailed
then orchestral sweet
on the scaffold the lift and blows
the joists the sounds of war
brass and the drill
battle bells and planing
cannons and drums
thunder hammer storms
the taste of sawdust motes and cymbal echoes
in swirling air
master and maestro constructing
dwellings to dream in
the hammer beating still
in my chest
– Fiona Stevens ( New Zealand)
How do you say goodbye to a figure who always seems larger than life?
With a mind a mile a minute, fathoms deep?
Whose accomplishments instil awe, yet were never selfish.
Whose laughter and song could not be contained by any room.
Who didn’t just listen to choruses and orchestras, but immersed self for the moment.
Whose pensive face was only that - full of thought
A freeze frame that would crack in a heartbeat to reveal a smile, a “Well …”,
Then an upward gaze as you sought to give the most helpful answer.
And anyone could.
There will never be a page, a book that would hold all there is to say and all that you mean to me.
One night, driving as we spoke about the moon,
“Olivia, not everyone has their attention brought to the beauty of the moon.
The beauty in nature,”
I marvelled at that truth then
And only so much because you had indeed done so for me along with Mummy,
And I was and still am so grateful.
All the things you held in esteem are woven into me.
By example you taught,
By sharing and opening up experiences,
By being someone to truly look up to,
How do you say goodbye to someone like that?
Look at my legs, my face
Feel in my step, my gait
Love my country
Remember my history
With joy, with passion, create, create
Mind I am part of a greater whole
Don’t give up should I ever fall
Daddy, I never say goodbye at all.
– Olivia Wilmot
Elegy for Esau
I wanted to stop writing
Poems of pain
That bleed on white page
That cried black-inked tears.
But then, my father died
And the sorrow returned
To my pen flooded it
With memories of his life
So now, it’s as if
My pen controls my hand
And writes elegies
Lamenting the loss
Of the world’s warmest soul.
I wanted to start writing
Poems of power
That energize life
That lift people up
Just like my father did
But then he died
And the pen took to mourning
His memory his life
– Nicholas Alexander: Jamaican living in the US