This Father’s Imperfect Love – Sixth Lineage Poem

This Father’s Imperfect Love – Sixth Lineage Poem. Writing an honest poem is a profoundly private act. Making the decision to share that poem publicly is anything but. This is especially true if one is writing “about” a friend or family member who’s still alive to read it (bearing in mind that all we can ever write about is our experience of another person– it’s all we have.)

Looking over my work, it’s clear that some of my poems may never see the light of day. I sort of have a Hippocratic oath about my poems – “first, do no harm.” And I guess there’s the rub – continue to slice close to the bone without causing embarrassment or harm to another.

For example, looking back at the Fifth Lineage Poem ( I know there are several other pieces I might have chosen that to me are very powerful, but that speak to aspects of our relationship that are too personal, too fraught to lob onto social media — sharing the intimacy of personal experience without invading the intimacy of another in the process.

dos hombres, Patrick and Nathan

So, here I turn and begin to look at the Lineage that descends from us rather than comes down to us. When our boys were born, I was so buried in career that there was no room for anything creative. It was only when I finally cried uncle and turned in my travel bag that a lifetime of suppressed creativity began to stir.

Consequently, I don’t have any contemporaneous work that touches on the joy, the mystery and the profound confusion that comes with newborns and the brilliance of little boys.

Instead, here are two pieces I wrote as the guys entered late adolescence, as they began to have a life that was increasingly invisible to their parents, as they left our family home for the world

I can’t protect them, but did I prepare them?

In a profound sense, it’s no longer my affair


as you pass the salt 
I notice how your mouth 
always tips on the edge of a smile, 
but I’m distracted by the thought 
of screeching tires

and as we talk, your curly hair 
bobs up and down (you know 
I'd like you to cut it – but not really) 
what I really want 

is for you to somehow find a way 
to protect yourself. and while desert 
is being served, I’m preoccupied 

with sheets being pulled over faces 
on a dark road I don’t recognize.

so, I can barely clear away the plates
while maintaining this pleasant conversation
in complete dread, as I am

of a decision you might one day make 
the one I won’t understand

the one I will never, ever understand

They learn to stand as children, then turn to you as men, and then they go.

And there it is.

not so little boys anymore, Nathan and Patrick

for a son

I’ve been waking in the night 
grinding my teeth – some feelings 

are so close to the bone, so fragile 
they can’t support a whole stack of words
like my denial that you will be leaving 
in the morning 

like my fear that I 
failed to teach you to fly

For a view of Patrick’s recent passions, here’s a link to his blog, Mountain Lessons- check it out!

7 thoughts on “This Father’s Imperfect Love – Sixth Lineage Poem

  1. Pingback: Shadow People – When the Lineage Merges and Generations Fadeold bones, new snow

  2. I love this lineage poem idea. You are offering some lovely material to contemplate, to test against our own experience, to savor. Love it!

    • Thanks Mary, and what an unexpected journey to step back see how one’s life can in a way, be reassembled by looking into the older work. This feels like something that needed doing and something that need to be completed, whatever that will look like

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