Welcomed by the Land – A Father Returns Home

The third in a series of Lineage Poems: Welcomed by the Land- A Father Returns Home. My father left Hancock County Ohio after the war and barely looked back. But when he died in 1986, there was a plot waiting for him there. A farmers’ cemetery tucked among the cornfields, rows of family names eroding into nothing up a small hill. Later, my mother would join him there, but this poem is about his journey home. And the Redwing Blackbirds in the fields, and the ribbon of asphalt leading there. About an Oldsmobile, and the memories of a boy, now a no longer young man.

Click here for the first poem in the Lineage Series: https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/09/a-joyful-noise-root-music-of-the-heartland/

Click here for the second poem in the Lineage Series: https://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/16/on-the-way-to-heaven-2nd-lineage-poem-over-ohio/

photo credit – the Audubon Society https://www.audubon.org/

A Father Returns Home:

redwing blackbirds

redwing blackbirds 
flash like fire in the sun, the Olds 
sailing and sailing over waves of blacktop

clicking past fenceposts, the boy 
peering from the back seat trying to count 
but it’s too fast to keep up 

such a small hole for a man that size 
tough to fit eternity into a space like that 
maybe space like time is collapsed by death

they say at the margin space and time 
are the same thing. tell me, if you could choose 
would you disappear in order to last forever? 

maybe it’s better to spread yourself out 
catch the wind and let it swirl you as ashes
straight to heaven. or maybe get an Olds

hold the jar out the window 
and go sailing over waves of blacktop
pop the cork and stream out the long dusty cloud 

that’s now filling your mirrors as you drive 
catching now on the wind, filling the sky 
until the sun itself goes black 

until the redwing blackbirds 


© 2022 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

Back to the Earth

On the Way to Heaven, 2nd Lineage Poem: Over Ohio

the author with “Big Al” in Detroit in 1963

On the Way to Heaven, 2nd Lineage Poem: Over Ohio My father died of lung cancer in Florida in 1986. Always an angry man, he was supremely bitter about his illness, feeling like he’d been robbed of the retirement due a lifetime of work. At the time, I was buried in my own workaholic haze in Chicago, flying down on weekends to see him, then going straight back to the office when I got back North.

He was in hospice when I got word that the end was near, and was in a coma by the time I arrived. This poem tells the story of a real conversation, one I’ll obviously never forget. He was a hard man who was hard on his boys. As I enter my own older years, I resent the hardness less and less, and miss him more and more. I’d love to be able to talk with him one more time.

Here’s the link to the first Lineage Poem : A Joyful Noise – Root Music of the Heartlandhttps://oldbonesnewsnow.com/2022/01/09/a-joyful-noise-root-music-of-the-heartland/

Over Ohio

my mother called on Friday
to let me know his time was near
that I needed to come now.

he was not an easy man
either to me or to my brother
or to himself. my mother, 

simple loyal and kind was spared this,
or so I hope. he’d been in a coma 
for days when I went to sit with him

through the night, his cancer-eaten body
rattling its ragged breaths
in the pale blue light of the monitors.

unable to sleep, I watched him breath in
the darkness, then just before dawn
he woke and wanted to talk.

I told him he was dying
as if he didn’t already know.
and he asked me how much money I made 

(so he’d know, he said, if I’d be safe)
then apologized for smacking us boys,
and I told him it was alright

even if it really wasn’t. 
I left when he drifted back into sleep
or wherever it was he’d been waiting,

and caught the early morning 
flight for home. he died 
while I was 30,000 feet over Ohio.

sometimes I wonder – 
at that moment, which one of us
was closest to heaven?

© 2022 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com

Big Al on the driveway in Detroit, 1963

And here’s a link to more poems about fathers from the Poetry Foundation: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/collections/101752/poems-about-fathers

A Joyful Noise- Root Music of the Heartland

siting on hard pews and harder teachings

The end of the year always turns my thoughts to family, lineage and those who came before. A Joyful Noise- Root Music of the Heartland – the first in a series of “lineage poems,” words of origin and reflection, of receiving and giving. My parents, both born in the earliest part of the twentieth century (1915 and 1917,) met in a no-stoplight farm town in northwest Ohio. Bred of simple stock, firm in their protestant faith, the kind of belief that’s simply assumed, stitched into the fabric of a life.

Root Music

on my days alone, or late
when the day’s light is going 
I can often hear their voices 

the thin black line of the old songs 
wavering like smoke above the fields 
the sad soul songs of simple white churches 
I can see old white women, the knotted hands 
of hard lives passed in good work
of cold mornings and long days 

I can see old men bent stiff into their one black suit 
restless children, sitting on hard pews 
and harder teachings

I was raised by voices 
planted in the flat black dirt of Ohio 
the granges and barns of a world expired 

now, when the sun has worn itself out 
and the heat of the land begins to fade
I like to sit and listen as darkness falls 

listen to the birds settling home
listen for the hymns as they begin to rise 
from the land 

listen to my own jagged life 
beginning to round

© 2022 jafink/oldbonesnewsnow.com
the first in a series of “lineage poems,” words of origin and reflection, of receiving and giving

Final African Wildlife Photography Collection- Zambia 2021

Third of three collections of African wildlife photos from last October, this time in Zambia along the Lower Zambezi River. A glorious place rich with wildlife and perhaps just a touch less traveled than the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

Click here for the slideshow on jfinkimages.com: https://www.jfinkimages.com/p780763266#hdf04dcf9

Here are the prior two collection links