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 

disappear



© 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

the heart of nothing

Image

near Danish flat, just past

yellow cat, the highway drops

from the hills, flattens

 

into an arrow

pointed straight at the heart

of nothing at all.

 

my father

was an Ohio farmboy, but always

loved the desert

 

would stand staring into it

for hours from the edge

of the motel

 

parking lot. all

that room—room enough for all

the dreams, all

 

the disappointment.

we buried his ashes in a small

square hole in a hillside

 

in ohio—

redwing blackbirds and endless

rows of corn.

 

up ahead, a storm

has gathered, blue tendrils of rain

reaching down

 

to stroke the desert

as if tomorrow has already

begun to cry

 

on our behalf

knowing as it must

all that lies ahead.

 

windows down,

I kill the lights and stomp

on the gas. fat drops

 

slap the windshield

while the wind tears at my hair.

I’m flying now

 

accelerating

into the black heart of the storm

spinning free

 

like an arrow

pointed straight at the heart

of nothing at all.

 

© Old Bones, New Snow/ JA Fink

Image

sacrament

for my friend Frank Ryan of whom I’m quite fond, though we’ve never actually met — thanks for the poems Frank!

bastard

 

Sacrament

you cant drive a nail

with a pen, or at least I

can’t– 26 letters in just one

of how many alphabets?

the neighbor kid

is kneeling on his back porch

with a rifle. his parents

are divorced but still share

the same house, and this

seems to be confusing,

so his father is trying

to make it up to him

with a gun. the older I get

the less I “get”—nothing

makes much sense

anymore, but I suppose

counting on coherence

is a common enough

mistake. a friend sent me

a book of his poems, one

for each month of the year

of the water snake, each written

on the first day of a new moon.

maybe this was the primordial

mistake, opting for solar

over lunar, a millennium

of repressed cycles of shadow

gnawing at the foundations

of everything. a poem

is a knife with no handle,

all blade, scoring the palms

of writer and reader alike.

and just so are we blood

brothers, consanguineous

across space and time

invoking this most ancient

sacrament of the human heart

our first and last defense

against snakes

and the final descent

into darkness.

 

© old bones, new snow/J.A. Fink