Last month I was in the foothills of the Adirondacks, poking around my parents’ giant vegetable garden (the thing could supply a small farmer’s market) talking tomatoes and beans with my father. Every summer and fall growing up we had an assembly line in the kitchen, washing and chopping and blanching and bagging zucchini and corn and beans and all kinds of squash for the freezer. Like most of the men I grew up around, my father always wears a hat (cap for everyday, hat-hat for solemn occasions), goes to the diner every morning, knows how to drive a tractor and change its oil, and has spent his life working hard and helping his neighbors and voting in elections. Joyce Sutphen’s elegant, fierce poems bring me back to my childhood. Some of them, like this one below, bring me to tears.
– Joyce Sutphen
Our fathers, who lived all their lives on earth—
are going now. They have given us all
we need, and when we asked, they gave us more.
Their names are beautiful to us, holy
as the names of stars, as familiar
as the roads we traveled, falling asleep
on the way from one farm to another.
Their kingdoms were small; they were never
interested in more than one homestead,
and as for evil: although they could not
keep it from us, they tried to keep us from
temptation, though we were like all children
and wanted our own power and glory,
world without end, forever and amen.
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