To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from
I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face.
– Li-Young Lee, ‘The Gift’
Sunday mornings I would reach high into his dark closet while standing on a chair and tiptoeing reach higher, touching, sometimes fumbling the soft crowns and imagine I was in a forest, wind hymning through pines, where the musky scent of rain clinging to damp earth was his scent I loved.
– Mark Irwin, ‘My Father’s Hat’
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?
– Robert Hayden, ‘Those Winter Sundays’
I stumbled in his hobnailed wake,
Fell sometimes on the polished sod;
Sometimes he rode me on his back
Dipping and rising to his plod.
I wanted to grow up and plough,
To close one eye, stiffen my arm.
All I ever did was follow
In his broad shadow around the farm.-
-Seamus Heaney, ‘Follower’
Of desire goes on
Turning inside his body.
He never phrased
What he desired,
And I am
– Robert Bly, ‘My Father at Eighty-
Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.
And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.
And another man, who remains inside his own house,
dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot.
– Rainer Maria Rilke, ‘Sometimes A Man Stands Up During Supper’ (translated by Robert Bly)
7. THE HOUSE OF BELONGING by David Whyte
I awoke this morning in the gold light
turning this way and that
thinking for a moment it was one day like any other.
But the veil had gone from my darkened heart
and I thought it must have been the quiet candlelight that filled my room,
it must have been the first easy rhythm with which I breathed myself to sleep,
it must have been the prayer I said speaking to the otherness of the night.
And I thought this is the good day you could meet your love,
this is the black day someone close to you could die.
This is the day you realize how easily the thread is broken
between this world and the next
and I found myself sitting up in the quiet pathway of light,
the tawny close grained cedar burning round me like fire
and all the angels of this housely heaven ascending through the first roof of light the sun has made.
This is the bright home in which I live,
this is where I ask my friends to come,
this is where I want to love all the things it has taken me so long to learn to love.
This is the temple of my adult aloneness
and I belong to that aloneness as I belong to my life.
There is no house like the house of belonging.