Sunday, June 17, 2012


How perfect that I re-open this blog on Father's Day.  

Many of you know the back story to Poems from the Boatyard, and its particular link to my father, and fatherhood in general. So it's perfect to start thinking again about my father, and the genesis of the poetry, on Father's Day. 

Some of you may have read the series of earlier posts (which begin here) that were basically the breakdown of an essay I wrote in France, shortly after my father died.  For those of you who aren’t au courant, here it is:

In the late 50’s or early 60’s, my father decided to build a boat in our backyard, on suburban Long Island.  This caused quite a ruckus, and a lot of excitement, among the adults in our community and family.  Lines split down two majority opinions:

  1.  "What are you crazy?!" 
  2.  "Wow!!!  How exciting!!!"

My own reaction was, “Yippee!!!  What’s a boat?!”  (So you can see how young I was.)  This reaction was largely based on my big brother’s reaction, who fell into category #2 above.  There may have been jumping up and down involved.

Nevertheless, the boat got built…almost..that story is unpacked in those earlier posts.  It has also gone into a long narrative poem that will be part of the sequel to Poems from the Boatyard.   Here’s an excerpt:


And I have finished my walk around this cemetery. 
My father is buried here, his father in another. 
I wonder where I'll end up, and if there will be poplars. 
We don't always get things right in our family,
but we get them done—by God!—
because our father breathed moral fiber into us,
like wind in a sail, like the wind in these poplars,
whose scent I now inhale and say, Thanks, Dad.
At least you tried to build a boat.

My father died in 2001, and the loss remains keenly felt in our family a decade later.  We remain boatyard rats, coastal huggers, and clam shack diners.  Ask any of these questions and watch agendas get reworked, if not entirely tossed out the window:  “Want to go out on the boat this weekend?...Want to walk down to the marina?...Want to take a drive along the shore?...Lunch in Matunuck?”  Life is good when viewed on a salt marsh safari, or sitting at a raw oyster bar, or watching the breakers off Watch Hill, RI.  

After a funeral, we're likely to take a ride to the water.  After a hurricane, or any major storm, we definitely are! In the inevitable conflicts that arise in families, even in the greatest tension points we have ever had, a one-word question can defuse tempers and turn aside wrath: “Boatride?” 

In large part, all because of my father.   

Thanks, Dad.  This one’s for you.    

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