Archives for posts with tag: fathers and sons

Mikhail Dudarev
Sunlight Seas
by Robert Walton

Ripple and surge
Across nylon walls,
And pine-shadow clouds
Drift there, too —
Swaying, soothing —
Just before I doze.
Both sons sleep already,
Free to slow down
In our tent’s dappled warmth,
Free from the cell phone scatter
Of young lives.
Just once
In this year of Covid
We share a nap
In Tuolumne.

PHOTO: Camp in the coniferous forest of the Yosemite National Park at night. Photo by Mikhail Dudarev.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I took my sons to the mountains, especially Yosemite’s mountains, to share beauty and adventure with them. We found more than I can ever say.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Walton retired from teaching after 36 years of service at San Lorenzo Middle School. He is a lifelong rock climber and mountaineer with ascents in Yosemite and Pinnacles National Park. He’s an experienced writer with published works, including historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy and poetry. Walton’s novel Dawn Drums won the 2014 New Mexico Book Awards Tony Hillerman Prize for best fiction. Sockdologizer,  his dramatization of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, won the Saturday Writers 2020 Everything Children contest. Most recently, his “Mansa Musa’s Wisdom” was published in Cricket Media’s February, 2022 issue of Spider magazine. Visit him at

PHOTO: The author near the summit of Lembert Dome, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite (July, 2009).

andrew kazmierski
At 10
by Steve Deutsch

it’s very clear

and very cold
my mind makes room

for recollection.

hidden for fifty
years crisp

as that first step
on snow

by an unearthly freeze.

I’m ten
and my dad and I

have stepped into
the silence

of an iced-in

The sycamore limbs

in sheathes of clear

Just for today
I am

the only son
and even

that first stab
of arctic air

is reason
to rejoice.

First published by Hamilton Stone Review.

PHOTO: Ice-covered sycamore tree branches in Bryant Park with the Empire State Building in the background, New York City. Photo by Andrew Kazmierski.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I remember walking out of the tenement hallway with my dad so clearly. He is proud of me and that makes has made me very happy. It’s a very visible image—which is unusual for me.

steve deutsch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steve Deutsch has been widely published. He is poetry editor of Centered Magazine. Steve was nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize. His chapbook, Perhaps You Can, was published in 2019 by Kelsay Press. His full-length books,  Persistence of Memory and Going, Going, Gone, were published by Kelsay Press. Find more of his work at

1600px-Aldermaston_Manor malcolm gould 2009
The Greatest Generation
by Alan Walowitz

      Thousands of protesters from the
      Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (C.N.D.)

      converged on the Berkshire village of Aldermaston yesterday to
      commemorate the birth of Britain’s anti-nuclear movement.

My father didn’t need to go anywhere
since he’d done the continent all-expenses-paid—
they even gave him grenade and gun.
But why not visit Aldermaston, son?
and see the castle there–
this a place he’d spent a week or so
before being tossed in the fog,
through France, Belgium, and on to Remagen,
then deeper in the dark, where,
having being trapped so long,
he hoped I might see
any place he’d actually been.

I took a shot with my Canon
through the ornate iron gates,
which masked the steel supports behind
sunk meters deep
and reinforced up top with ribbons of razor wire.
Then a man in uniform emerged from the manor
marching smartly in my direction.
He figured I was CND
and out to case the joint,
or start a riot then and there
and get my mug in the dailies.

He said he’d hold the camera
but I should feel free to walk the grounds–
outside the perimeter–
and notify the sentry when I was done.
An hour later, the camera was returned, but film gone,
and, at the only pub in town, I bought
a fine picture postcard of the castle,
taken from inside the gates one fine May day–
with lays of lilies aground,
festive balloons in air
and battlements festooned with flags of all nations.

When I returned, I offered that postcard
with the pride of a man
who has accomplished much
in the face of great adversity.
Dad studied and agreed, That’s the place.
I told him, The picture’s for you to keep.
He tossed it back as if
it had been brought by a dangerous stranger,
and exploded in my hands with a—
What would I want with that?

Originally appeared in the D-Day 70th Anniversary Anthology (mgv2>publishing).

PHOTO: “Aldermaston Manor” by Malcolm Gould (2009), used by permission.

Alan 1974 scary passport photo-page-001

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Like my father before me, I’m not much of a traveler. I wasn’t one even before the pandemic. When I visited England in the mid 1970s, however, my father seemed pleased that I’d visit the “castle” in the village of Aldermaston, where he had been stationed during World War II. He didn’t know that in the years since the end of the war, the village—and the castle, itself—had become a center for nuclear development in England, and was the focus of many anti-nuclear protests. PHOTO: The author’s passport photo (1974).

Alan without mask copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alan Walowitz is finally retired from his second career as a professor of education. He’s a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an Online Community Journal of Poetry.  His books are Exactly Like Love (Osedax Press) and The Story of the Milkman and Other Poems (Truth Serum Press). A forthcoming chapbook, In the Muddle of the Night, co-written with Betsy Mars, will be published by Arroyo Seco Press.


Congratulations to Chris Forhan — author of the poetry collection Ransack and Dance (Silver Birch Press, 2013) — on the June 28, 2016 release of his memoir My Father Before Me by Scribner, prestigious publisher of some of the greatest of the great (F.Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, Kurt Vonnegut).

BOOK DESCRIPTION: An award-winning poet offers a multi-generational portrait of an American family—weaving together the lives of his ancestors, his parents, and his own coming of age in the 60s and 70s in the wake of his father’s suicide, in this superbly written, “fiercely honest” (Nick Flynn) memoir. The fifth of eight children, Chris Forhan was born into a family of silence. He and his siblings learned, without being told, that certain thoughts and feelings were not to be shared. On the evenings his father didn’t come home, the rest of the family would eat dinner without him, his whereabouts unknown, his absence pronounced but not mentioned. And on a cold night in 1973, just before Christmas, Forhan’s father killed himself in the carport. Forty years later, Forhan “bravely considers the way he is and is not his father’s son” (Larry Watson), digging into his family’s past and finding within each generation the same abandonment, loss, and silence in which he was raised. Like Ian Frazier in Family or Frank McCourt in Angela’s Ashes, Forhan shows his family members as both a part and a product of their time. My Father Before Me is a family history, an investigation into a death, and a stirring portrait of growing up in an Irish Catholic childhood, all set against a backdrop of America from the Great Depression to the Ramones.

chris forhan

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chris Forhan is the author of the poetry collections Forgive Us Our Happiness, winner of the Bakeless Prize; The Actual Moon, The Actual Stars, winner of the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize; and Black Leapt In, chosen by poet Phillis Levin for the Barrow Street Press Book Prize. He was raised in Seattle and earned an MA from the University of New Hampshire and an MFA from the University of Virginia. He has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and two Pushcart prizes. His poetry has been anthologized in The Best American Poetry 2008 and has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, New England Review, Parnassus, and other magazines. He teaches at Butler University in Indianapolis, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Find My Father Before Me by Chris Forhan at

State Road 13
by Barry Harris

Riding back from a Thanksgiving Sunday town
in a fifty-two Packard
leaving the pumpkins and apples
appropriately in two places,
the town and my child’s mind
as I ride farther down the road into a new moment.

The November sun hanging at the edge
of the brown dirt farmland.
My father slowly driving and telling
of some other sunset years past
and I not yet thinking I could hold
all the knowledge of the sky in my small head.

That road aimed straight as a lance
between two towns except for one gracious curve,
a mile-long tender arc
which I loved for its simple feeling of change.
Along the way corn shocks stood like field sentinels
among the dim-lighted homes and derelict schoolhouses
standing like Hoosier shipwrecks.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author in his elementary school photograph at age seven in 1955.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written remembering Saturday afternoon drives with my father to my grandmother’s house about 20 miles away down Indiana State Road 13.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barry Harris is editor of the Tipton Poetry Journal and has published one poetry collection, Something At The Center. Barry lives in Brownsburg, Indiana, and is retired from Eli Lilly and Company.  A graduate of Ball State University with a major in English, Barry was founding editor of Tipton Poetry Journal, which has been published in print and online versions since 2004. In 2009, he helped found Brick Street Poetry, Inc., a nonprofit organization that now publishes Tipton Poetry Journal, hosts Poetry on Brick Street, and sponsors poetry-related events. His poetry has appeared in Saint Ann’s Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Night Train, Hiss Quarterly, Cherry Blossom Review, Flying Island, Lily, The Centrifugal Eye, Flutter Poetry Journal, Wheelhouse Magazine, Houston Literary Review, Snow Monkey and Writers’ Bloc, and in these anthologies: Twin Muses: Art and Poetry and From the Edge of the Prairie.

by John Grey

The old man and I sit at the diner counter
picking ashes out of the toast.

Where else would I be on a Saturday morning
but in the shadow of the Alpha fisherman
watching him gulp down coffee
while I sip through the thick tangy scent of orange juice.
Next time, I’ll insist on a cup of joe instead.

I hold myself up by the elbows
so as to feel so much older
while Sally the waitress
unbraids the early morning crew
with her usual salty sass
and Sam the cook shouts something to my father like
“save some of them big fat trout for me.”

I’m looking forward to damp grass, river bank,
and the slow curdle of brown water
around two taut catgut lines.

It’s a good deal for me.
There is a chance that, even at twelve years old,
I can haul in the bigger catch.
A hook is a hook
and a fish has no clue
who among us deserves most tribute.

Better this than suffering him
sinking baskets over my head
or busting my pride on the checkerboard.

The old man pays the bill
and we drive off in his truck.
I wonder how many more times
the two of us will be doing this.
It’s the start of a season – fishing season sure –
but with another, unspoken definition
going for it.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author as a schoolboy in 1963.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Grey is an Australian poet and U.S. resident. His poetry was recently published in New Plains Review, Mudfish, and Spindrift with work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Sanskrit, and Louisiana Literature.

Watching My Old Man Kick Someone’s Ass
by Richard Vargas

i was three maybe four
looked out the screen door
there he was across the street
people were standing in a circle
he and another man were in the middle
my old man must have been in his early 20s
lean hard and mean
fresh out of the 82nd Airborne
the other guy was soft
a pendejo who never left the block
my dad was throwing his shit
left and right
his opponent was backing up into
the crowd losing his footing
but afraid to take his eyes off
the crazy cholo coming at him
it was over before it really started
my old man victorious and cocky
i remember he looked from
across the street
saw me standing in the doorway
our eyes met and i knew he had
just shown me something important
i took a mental snapshot
so i’d always carry
the moment with me

when i want to strike out
unleash the blow we all
have within us
i write a poem

and i know
he would

SOURCE: “Watching My Old Man Kick Someone’s Ass” appears in American Jesus: Poems by Richard Vargas (Tia Chucha Press, 2007).

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at six months with his father.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is a mental photograph of my father, who overdosed on heroin shortly after my tenth birthday. He was incarcerated most of the time, it seems, but the few lessons he tried to teach me are etched in my memory. Poetry helped me remember and get over the bitterness he caused with his early exit.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard Vargas was born in Compton, California, attended schools in Compton, Lynwood, and Paramount. He earned his B.A. at Cal State University, Long Beach, where he studied under Gerald Locklin and Richard Lee. He edited/published five issues of The Tequila Review, 1978-1980. His first book, McLife, was featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, in February 2006. A second book, American Jesus, was published by Tia Chucha Press, 2007. His third book, Guernica, revisited, was published in April 2014 by Press 53. (A poem from the book was featured on Writer’s Almanac to kick off National Poetry Month.) Vargas received his MFA from the University of New Mexico, 2010. He was recipient of the 2011 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference’s Hispanic Writer Award, and was on the faculty of the 2012 10th National Latino Writers Conference. Vargas will facilitate a poetry workshop at the 2015 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference, and he has read his poetry in venues in Los Angeles, Chicago, Madison, Albuquerque/Santa Fe/Taos, Indianapolis, and Boulder. Currently, he resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he edits/publishes The Más Tequila Review, and will facilitate The Más Tequila Poetry Workshop this July at the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference.

My father never drank
by James Ross Kelly

My father never drank
While he was working
When he was not working
A bottle of Jim Beam appeared
On the dining room table like a Roman pillar
And when it drained down another appeared.

My father was generally working
Sixteen hour days in the oilfields
Seven days a week until
A well came in or there was a dry hole
In between in the moving of the oil derrick
He was off, & he would drink, in the
Mornings there was beer at Lyle’s
& later at the St. James Hotel
Where there might be a card game
& I’d drink cokes and stare at the
Huge painting of Custer’s Last Stand

On a barstool I’d sit & his pals
Would call me little Jim Beam, I took no
Notice of this but liked the smell of stale beer
& the swagger of men, & sway of women
Brave enough to come in
Sometimes I’d get sent to Mel’s Drug store
With enough change for a root beer float
& in the afternoon’s he’d hit the harder stuff

When my father decided
To fish or hunt
He’d not drink during these adventures
Fishing was sport combined
With a notion of battle I suppose

I remember a trip to Arkansas
The ‘56 Buick, a trailer, tents
Tent poles, fishing poles a four-hour drive
& we arrive to put out a fish trap, trot lines
& set up camp, Coleman stove made just up
In Wichita, & the next morning I helped him
Seine back waters for minnows & perch, & snapping turtles
My grandmother loved

This was catching, & fishing poles came out
As an afterthought & after a couple of days
We brought the bounty of catfish and drum
Back for my grandmother to cook & Jim would come out &
My father & stepmother throwing rules aside did battle
My father had been through the Battle of the Bulge
She came from some place on the other side of the County
That was worse

PHOTOGRAPH: Joseph E. Kelly (left) and James Ross Kelly, around 1955, Winfield, Kansas, in the family’s backyard with a display of channel catfish and other species, and a grain elevator in the background. To the left is a corner of a minnow tank, denoting  the residence of serious fishermen.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: James Ross Kelly lives in Northern California. He has been a journalist for Gannet, a travel book editor, and had a score of labor jobs — the in-between jobs you get from being an English major. Most recently, he retired as a writer-editor for the Forest Service, where he spent the better part of the last decade in Alaska. He started writing poetry in college, and after college continued and gave occasional readings in the Pacific Northwest during the 1980s. His poems have appeared in Westwind Review (Ashland, Oregon), Open Sky (Seattle), Siskiyou Journal (Ashland, Oregon), Don’t Read This (Ashland, Oregon), Table Rock Sentinel, (Medford, Oregon), Poetry Motel (Duluth, Minnesota), Poems for a Scorpio Moon & Others (Ashland, Oregon), The Red Gate & Other Poems, a handset letterpress chapbook published by Cowan & Tetley (1984, Vancouver, B.C.), Silver Birch Press (Los Angeles), and so glad is my heart (Duluth, Minnesota).

By Edward Hirsch

I used to mock my father and his chums
for getting up early on Sunday morning
and drinking coffee at a local spot
but now I’m one of those chumps.
No one cares about my old humiliations
but they go on dragging through my sleep
like a string of empty tin cans rattling
behind an abandoned car.
It’s like this: just when you think
you have forgotten that red-haired girl
who left you stranded in a parking lot
forty years ago, you wake up
early enough to see her disappearing
around the corner of your dream
on someone else’s motorcycle
roaring onto the highway at sunrise.
And so now I’m sitting in a dimly lit
café full of early morning risers
where the windows are covered with soot
and the coffee is warm and bitter. 

SOURCE: “Early Sunday Morning” appears in Edward Hirsch’s collection The Living Fire (Knopf, 2010), available at

IMAGE: “Cup of Blue” by Sebastian Lartiste. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Edward Hirsch is an American poet and critic who wrote the national best seller How to Read a Poem. He has published eight books of poems, including The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems (2010), which brings together thirty-five years of work. He is president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in New York City.

by Simon J. Ortiz

Lie on your back on stone
the stone carved to fit
the shape of yourself.
Who made it like this,
knowing that I would be along
in a million years and look
at the sky being blue forever?

My son is near me. He sits
and turns on his butt
and crawls over to stones,
picks one up and holds it,
and then puts it in his mouth.
The taste of stone.
What is it but stone,
the earth in your mouth.
You, son, are tasting forever.

We walk to the edge of a cliff
and look down into the canyon.
On this side, we cannot see
the bottom cliffedge but looking
further out, we see fields,
sand furrows, cottonwoods.
In winter, they are softly gray,
The cliffs’ shadows are distant,
hundreds of feet below;
we cannot see our own shadows,
The wind moves softly into us,
My son laughs with the wind;
he gasps and laughs.

We find gray root, old wood,
so old, with curious twists
in it, curving back into curves,
juniper, pinon, or something
with hard, red berries in spring.
You taste them, and they are sweet
and bitter, the berries a delicacy
for bluejays. The plant rooted
fragilely in a sandy place
by a canyon wall, the sun bathing
shiny, pointed leaves.
My son touches the root carefully,
aware of its ancient quality.
He lays his soft, small fingers on it
and looks at me for information.
I tell him: wood, an old root,
and around it, the earth, ourselves.

NOTE: Canyon de Chelly National Monument was established on April 1, 1931 as a unit of the National Park Service. It is located in northeastern Arizona within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation. Reflecting one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes of North America, it preserves ruins of the early indigenous tribes that lived in the area, including the Ancient Pueblo Peoples (also called Anasazi) and Navajo. The monument covers 83,840 acres and encompasses the floors and rims of the three major canyons: de Chelly, del Muerto, and Monument. These canyons were cut by streams with headwaters in the Chuska mountains just to the east of the monument. None of the land is federally owned. In 2009, Canyon de Chelly National Monument was recognized as one of the most-visited national monuments in the United States. (SOURCE:

PHOTO: “Canyon de Chelly” by Ansel Adams (1941)