In honor of my dad’s birthday today, here is a poem from my first book, The Cardinal Turns the Corner, titled “Dad.” Happy birthday, Dad!
On the mountains at the farthest border of the world,
snow-capped and calling,
I felt my way to the thin line of the edge
and looked down into outer space
where I could see the winds of stars fall asleep
below my scarlet knuckles
as the northern lights, with their tin flame of foil fire,
green and white diamond, filmed the midnight sky.
They told stories like my father,
full of heroes and the beauties they fought for,
as every scene of laughter and of sorrow,
played at once along the measures of their gleaming.
Then I balled a few rags of snow in my grasp
and clenched them hard enough for the cold to slide
into my chest and crack my pounding heart alive
as I rose to my feet and steadied my shaking lungs.
I remember those tales well,
my father sitting by my bedside, holding
oceans and sailing ships with the strength of
his love for me.
And I would follow him anywhere,
through the forestry of childhood,
keeping close to his heels as he
showed me where to go,
well into the iron winters of adulthood
as my stride slowly grew stronger, and
he taught me how to breathe
the mountain air of becoming a father.
For now, as I stand at the peak of this universe,
filled with ice and the sweep of shooting stars,
I turn and see the faces of my own children and my beautiful wife,
looking to me with the smiles of home,
and I know it is time to tell my own stories,
to hold their hands and lead them onward
as they keep close to my heels, and I show them
where to go.