The only poem that I’ve written that was actually published was about my dad, whose birthday happens to be today and I think I have now set a precedent for writing poems for loved ones on their birthdays. So, sharing with you all today a poem that I wrote back in college after taking a May Term poetry class with the talented Dr. Rhoda Janzen, a professor at Hope College in Michigan and author of Little Black Dress. It was a remarkable month full of poetry, prose, and playful practice.
Another tribute to my dad today was listening to a radio playlist on Spotify (the free version with AdBlocker on 🙂 using James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James.” In the mix were songs by Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Peter, Paul, and Marry.
My dad strums us to sleep
with familiar chords,
after his bearded chin brushes
across our faces and
his lips land on our cheeks.
His quiet goodnight kisses leave
the air crisp with Colgate;
cooling the hot bedroom air.
We listen to the words he sings;
easing from his mouth
like baby snakes that so
effortlessly crawl up our drains,
and into the tub while we shower.
I shriek with terror and
my dad comes running,
killing the squirming thing
with a machete from the shed.
My dad’s words, although effortless,
are not like those slithering creatures:
He sings lullabies and melodies
that linger in the air, just
like the lights of fireflies
that twinkle in the twilight
when day bows its tired head
and night faithfully tucks it in.
Puff the Magic Dragon, unlike us,
lived by the sea, but, Goodnight
Ladies, was a song about my sister and me.
We listen, eyes fluttering to a close,
and promptly, drift into dreamland
with smiles spreading like wings
in flight across our cheeks while
Dad keeps on strumming chords
with guitar upon his knees.