The Family's Tree


In Memory of

A king, realising his incompetence, can either delegate or abdicate his duties.  A father can do neither.  If only sons could see the paradox, they would understand the dilemma.

- Marlene Dietrich

my father moved
through dooms of love
through sames of am
through haves of give,
singing each morning
out of each night
my father moved
through depths of height

     — e e  cummings

How do we forgive our fathers?
Maybe in a dream.

Do we forgive our fathers for leaving us too often,
or forever,
when we were little?

Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage,
or for making us nervous
because there never seemed to be any rage there at all?

Do we forgive our fathers for marrying,
or not marrying,
our mothers?

Or divorcing,
or not divorcing,
our mothers?

And shall we forgive them for their excesses
of warmth
or coldness?

Shall we forgive them
for pushing
or leaning?

For shutting doors?
For speaking through walls?

Or never speaking?
Or never being silent?

Do we forgive our fathers in our age or in theirs?

Or in their deaths,
saying it to them,
or not saying it?

If we forgive our fathers, what is left?

- Dick Lourie

Source: This poem was read during the closing credits of the film Smoke Signals.  It was originally published in a longer version titled "Forgiving Our Fathers" in a book of poems titled Ghost Radio(This information was kindly pointed out to me by Elizabeth Huntington,

Nice Try

"Hi, Dad, it's me."

"Oh, uh huh!  Hi, son!  I'll go and get your mother..."

"No, don't get Mum.  It's you I want to talk to..."

There's a pause...then...

"Why?  Do you need money?"

"No, I don't need money."

The younger man starts on his [somewhat rehearsed but still vulnerable] speech...

"I've just been remembering a lot about you, Dad, and the things you did for me.  Working all those years to put me through college, supporting us.  My life is going well now and it's because of what you did to get me started.  I just thought about it and realised I'd never really said 'Thanks...'"

Silence on the other end of the phone.  The son continues, "I want to tell you... Thanks.  And that I love you."

"You been drinking??"

Source: Manhood: An Action Plan for Changing Men's Lives by Steve Biddulph


by David Beard

The radio is on,
still no one is listening.
Shouting rises to the rafters.
Mother says there is too little
money and soon too little food,
promises are wasted words.
My father says the streets beat
you down, make you feel like nothing.
At supper everything is quiet,
we eat fried mush and instant potatoes.
My father lights up a cigarette,
walks out in the yard,
looks up at the sky,
believes we could not love him.

Source: The Sun August 1992

My Papa's Waltz

by Theodore Roethke (1908 - 1963)

The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

Source: The Pocket Book of Modern Verse
edited by Oscar Williams

Life with Father

by Walter McDonald (b 1934)

Sunday meant sleeping in,
time to pull another quilt
and hide from whiskey
in our daddy's snoring.

Only the Sunday funnies saved us
after last night's raving,
proof there was a demon.
Under covers we traded peeks

at Maggie giving Jiggs
the devil, Dagwood
bumbling about insanely sober,
tiny Wash Tubbs with twins

he doted over.  At dawn
we folded the quilts
and funnies, crept softly
through our chores

as if in church,
soothing the fi-foe-fum
of his slumber, fearing
the thrum of his boots

descending the heavy
stalk of his stupor,
fierce when he found
his dreamed gold gone.

Source: Perrine's Literature: Structure Sound and Sense
Thomas A Arp and Greg Johnson

For more articles related to Men including sperm donations on the net, the effects of testosterone, condom sizes, buddies, smells, nagging, gynæcologists, mid-life crises, fathers and more click the "Up" button below to take you to the Table of Contents page for this section.

Back Home Up Next