‘A Poem for My Father, Before It’s Too Late’ by Michael Kearney

Your spirit is vibrant,
always has been,
but your body is broken,
was always so strong,
but, I fear, it was just not built for a run much longer than this (73 years);
I pray I am proven so very, very wrong.

You are still teaching me,
preparing me,
mostly at night,
when it is quiet, and I am alone, you come to me,
a spectre, yet fresh,
with the many faces of your ages:
the youth I have seen in pictures,
the young man, towering, at 5’6”, over me, his child,
the still bull of a man as a 55 year-old, newly former firefighter, grandfather,
the 73 year-old climbing a pine tree to cut branches,
driving his wife to ranting over the danger –
“if he passes-out, has a heart-attack, at that height …”
offering guidance in everything I do,
and I know you will be with me, doing this, until I draw my last breath,
regardless of when you draw yours:
this world, my world, cannot exist without your presence.

I hope this is in time –
If I wait for publication, it may be too late.
Type it up and attach it to an email?
Read it to you over the phone?
The matter is urgent and it should have been my whole life –
Upon reflection, your death has been imminent to me almost my whole life:
As a firefighter’s child, I attended funerals for your fallen brothers,
saw their children, was very aware that easily it could be me
standing before your casket.
The matter of our lives should have been to communicate about “us” as much as possible.
Hmm … the lack of this is perhaps what is the matter with most of our lives.
Dad, I am not as concerned with your politics as I am with your being my father,
with loving you, with having you a huge part of my life for these 50 years,
and having you as a huge part of my being for as long as I am in Being.

And, while I may now place more importance on my two sons and spouse than you,
I suspect you are pleased with this: you taught this mode of valuation to me.
And, while this poem is to/for you,
I am not relegating mother
(mom, your poem will be coming, soon, I assure you)
to a lesser position of love,
I am concerned with her well-being as much as yours,
and will “look after her” when you are gone – your explicit wishes,
it is only that your case, your time left here, seems the more urgent thing to address:
mom’s life expectancy, even though she is three years older than you,
gives her more time with me, I think/believe/hope:
she is female and was not a New York City firefighter.
It was also you who taught me to think like this:
rational, practical, yet a thought process with love deep at its core,
so deeply layered by rational concerns that the love could become hazy.

We spoke, on the phone, this morning of your mother,
of her standing on the road in Forgney,
waving goodbye, for as long as possible, to us every time
we left Ireland for wherever we had to make a “home.”
Always, all of us, aware that we may never see each other again.

Will my last image of you be the security guard at JFK moving
you, mother, Patrick, and Michael out of the scope of my view?
He taking away a possible last chance for our eyes to meet
before I descended an escalator?
No, it will not be my last image of you:
your images are etched in the flesh of my brain.
I’ll prefer different ones; like the one from a few minutes earlier,
where with mirth in your eyes, you asked me how your
wild, windswept hair looked.
Well, it looked longer than ever I remember it looking –
I guess this is because the NYFD and Air National Guard
restrictions on hair length now no longer have any control over you.

There are too many restrictions on life,
but none that should keep me from saying
I respect you, and more importantly,
that I love you.
Yet, we say these things as if they cost us something enormous,
when in truth, they only give to us.

I hope that this poem is extremely premature,
and that I get to tell you I love you many more times
while seeing mirth in your eyes.



Long ago in New York, Mike was a sort of musician-poet of absolutely no acclaim, but he had a very good time.  After getting married, he lived in Japan, for a while; then went to Ireland to do a PhD because he wanted to make comprehensible the things that were going on in his head.  Now back in Japan, and having generated a happy family (shameless Ramones reference), he wants to enjoy thinking again.  He is very interested in non-mainstream cultural activities and prefers being on ice because it is pure and easier than walking.

[the featured image – entitled Pfnaul by Michael Kearney – can be found in One Imperative: PlayI


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