A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Have You Prayed

Have You Prayed

When the wind
turns and asks, in my father’s voice,
Have you prayed?

I know three things. One:
I’m never finished answering to the dead.

Two: A man is four winds and three fires.
And the four winds are his father’s voice,
his mother’s voice . . .

Or maybe he’s seven winds and ten fires.
And the fires are seeing, hearing, touching,
dreaming, thinking . . .
Or is he the breath of God?

When the wind turns traveler
and asks, in my father’s voice, Have you prayed?
I remember three things.
One: A father’s love

is milk and sugar,
two-thirds worry, two-thirds grief, and what’s left over

is trimmed and leavened to make the bread
the dead and the living share.

And patience? That’s to endure
the terrible leavening and kneading.

And wisdom? That’s my father’s face in sleep.

When the wind
asks, Have you prayed?
I know it’s only me

reminding myself
a flower is one station between
earth’s wish and earth’s rapture, and blood

was fire, salt, and breath long before
it quickened any wand or branch, any limb
that woke speaking. It’s just me

in the gowns of the wind,
or my father through me, asking,
Have you found your refuge yet?
asking, Are you happy?

Strange. A troubled father. A happy son.
The wind with a voice. And me talking to no one.

I was so moved by this poem by Li-Young Lee which Loren Webster quoted in a recent post - that I thought I'd copy it here.

I suppose this poem has a particular resonance for me right now since my father (a formidably religious man) died just over a year ago, and my brother-in-law (a father of four) just a few days ago. And I, as a father, am having difficulties with the 'role' at the moment. As fathers often do...


Rachel Fox said...

All roles bring difficulties. Why should parenthood be any different...

Sorry to hear of a death in the family.


The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your brother-in-law's death, the loss to your family, and especially to his kids, whatever their ages.

We never outgrow the need for a father. At least I never have. Being a father and having a father are two different things…but life is a succession of such relationships—having, losing, loving, enjoying, longing for and missing. Time floods us all, bringing in, taking away.

Take care, my friend. We're all mortal. Sons of our fathers, fathers to our offspring…our lives in between. I will keep you in my prayers.

am said...

Sad to hear of the recent death in your family. May your brother-in-law rest in peace. It doesn't seem that long since your father died.

Good to read that poem again. Thank you for posting it. Yesterday was seven years after my father died, also a formidably religious man.

Tramp said...

There are large generation gaps in our family, my grandfather died some 20 years before I was born so my knowledge of him is from what my father told me. He so often prefixed his comments with "My old Dad used to say...". Of course I used to laugh at him about it. My father died when my son was just 2. So much of what I say to him is prefixed "My old Dad used to say...". Of course ...
I can't help it and I make no apologies for it but sometimes I smile inside when I do it.
Perhaps one day ...

Rebecca said...

I am so sorry to hear of the death of your brother-in-law.

Thank you for posting the poem. My father died in Sept 1997, and even in business of my daily life, thoughts of him would pop into my head, sometimes at the most odd of moments, but most especially at meal times - he loved food and we had travelled many a mile in search for a bowl of beefballs in one corner of town, or a grilled piegion in another, or walked blocks for the perfect cup of coffee.

Today, from your post, I remember how he had often paced the floor trying to find the right words to speak to me with - then the arrogant young woman who had thought the world laid at her feet and she could do no wrong - and I am grateful for his invariable patience.

The role will continue to challenge but have faith that you will continue too, to find a way; the father's way, to convey your thoughts and your wisdom.

ksam said...

WOw...first the poem that left prickles of tears and then the posts...they finished me off on this beautiful sunny spring morning!

It's fifteen years to the day that I publicly shared this story for the first time ever...with anyone let, alone all of my family! I stood on the edge of my mothers open grave , on the edge of a field, looking out at the mountains, turning to see Mt Rainier looming large. Mum died on St. Patricks day, as she jokingly said she would. We buried her on my parents wedding anniversary. My dad "presided" as Mum had wanted no man of the "cloth". And we each shared, if we chose, something of this amazing woman.

I remembered the day I met faith for the first time. I was...maybe 9 or so? I came down stairs and don' recall what it was that started the conversation, but telling her how afraid I was at times, esp. when being alone. She was standing at the kitchen sink..it was a sunny winter day and I remember she quietly turned and said with a quiet conviction, so strong it quite literally had a physical force to it..."But your never alone, ever". I even remember taking a step back, her words had such strength to them.

Thanks Mum....even if you did find my youngest sons name to be "dreadfully ethnic sounding" :-)
Patrick Michael, ended up being her favorite, in spite of his dreadful moniker!! :-)

And thanks SW for such a beautiful poem on such a lovely morning here!! And to all those voices on the wind...thank you too...

Now I'm off for a tissue!! :-)

The Solitary Walker said...

All these responses to my post are truly touching and heart-warming. It's good to express things in writing which are so near the bone, so near the heart, isn't it? I do thank you all for them.

Lorenzo at the Alchemist's Pillow said...

SW, as they say here in Spain to express condolences: te acompaño en el sentimiento

Bill said...

This poem left me wanting to read it again (which I will after a good night's sleep! It's late) but sensing there was something in it which I, as a father could relate to. It's funny how the meaning of a poem trickles through.

Sad news. Sad, too, that it happened on the day it did.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your comments, Bill & Lorenzo.