.28) Father's Blessing

1.

Every piece of clothing
felt soaked with dread as I packed.
My brother had called from St. Louis,
saying this might be the time:
”And you, my father,
there on that sad height…”

I prepared to enter
the solemn tunnel
of passage, father to son

since the time
aged Isaac placed his hand
on Jacob’s head,
thinking he was Esau.

Was some trickster
at work here, too?


2.

When I was 8,
the rope I was following
my father along
to manhood
gradually started
slipping away,
till I had no guide at all.

Later came my rebellion
and the rage
of the displeased patriarch
that his young Isaac
refused to place his head
upon a block of sacrifice
into the prison of a suit and tie

but tried to go his own way
along a bridge of passage
that was missing slats.

When the son fell
into a black abyss,
the patriarch cried
his vat of tears
till none were left.

The son found other fathers
who had the nets to scoop him up,
and as the years stretched out,
the baffled patriarch asked,
“Why these other
father figures in your life? ”

He scratched his greying head
at a son who had given up
life as he’d known it
to follow a God
no more solid
to the father than the air,
no more substantial to him
than fairies or wind.

No way to sing again,
“Sonny boy,
climb upon my knee...”

Breakfasts of reconciliation
would end with peremptory
hugs after gruff words,
resentments too alive
to stay politely buried.

3.

Entering the room,
I saw a sleeping man.
Too late? He must
have heard me walk in.
He blinked, then stared.
“Maxie’s here!
Now I can die! ”

You always were a joker, dad,
but that may not have been a joke.

I fumbled through my mind for words.
The family came, and then went out,
And we were left alone again.

“Anything you want to say? ”
I risked, not knowing
if the patriarch would bless
or snub his eldest son.

A little while earlier,
he’d said, “I’ve got to go to work! ”
and tried to pull his tubes out.
Now he looked at me
with total clarity.

“I’m proud of you, ” he said.
“I’m happy that you’re teaching.
If you can sell your writing,
you’ll have everything you want.”

I bowed my head,
received my father’s blessing—
and felt my burden lift.

by Max Reif

Comments (5)

Honesty is the best but most difficult source of really good stuff, and there's no messing around with this one. My favorite line is the 'bridge of passage with missing slats.' It almost reads like a novel, which I dare say you should pursue in all sincerity.
When you read this comment Max, You'll know it came from someone who had you all figured wrong. I'll have to read more of your work now
Max, this is excellent. I detect an English influence in it; I think it is the theme. But that's just me. You present this coming-of-age more as a 'road' poem as if life were some highway that we do not know were it is going, and we do not know what it is we want from the journey, until it has finished. And the simplicity of our needs as if the jouney was something we need not have gone on or the total opposite. You seem express no elation at the end of the journey. It seems as if it is a shrug of the shoulders. Yes, this is certainlya fine piece Max and so well composed.
Beautiful and touching, Max. I couldn't help but chortle at the line 'If you can sell your writing...' which my father would have delivered with a heavy emphasis! As we used to say in the staffroom after half-term and chats with parents - 'Parents are the least suitable people to have children...'
Blessings on your head Max........in a blink of and eye and the time flies.....chapters fold and all that is left are memories.......but, people don't really die.....(not the ones we love) ....they leave their soul's with us. A well written poem with hearty sentiment~ You were blessed!