Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Poem for My Father

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Today I'm watching how
The ocean slides in at low tide,
The way the little waves fall over,
Push up the beach and spread thin,
A sheer plane of light over slick, dark sand.
The way the water recedes,
Sucked back into itself, a disappearance.

Today I'm thinking of the morning light
Perched across the low roil of surf,
Caught in the froth and sizzle of the sea,
Each wave just like a thought,
Surging up out of the mind,
Defined for an instant, then drained,
Back to the unchanneled noise.

And I'm trying to remember my father,
His voice and hands and face.
But the mind is inadequate:
I see him now under the surface,
Loose and fluid, but unlit in the current.

I'd like to come down here with my father's ghost
To watch the form of morning lurk
In the beautiful shadows, just behind water and sky.
We could sit in those low beach chairs,
Before the crowds come out,
We could laugh over our stupid arguments.

We could have all the essence we want:
The angels from Blake,
The wine from Li Po,
A symbol from the Pearl Poet,
The righteousness from Thoreau,
The music from Duke Ellington,
Whom he saw play in the 40's --

God, what America that was:
My father a young man,
In the first acts of his unknowable life,
Ages from this scuttle of sand.

The horizon sits immune,
A flat line between one blue and another,
That will not bend.

It balances the sea.
It holds down the sky.

It clears and spins,
It bears its own weight.


James Brown is the Head of the Upper School at Pinewood Preparatory School in Summerville, South Carolina. His most recent publication is a poem in the Spring issue of The Aurora Review.


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