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W.S. Merwin, 'Yesterday'
Thank you to duathir via greatpoets


My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand

he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know

even when I was living in the same city he says
maybe I would go there once
a month or maybe even less
I say oh yes

he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father

he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me

oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father's hand the last time
he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk with me

oh yes I say

but if you are busy he said
I don't want you to feel that you
have to
just because I'm here

I say nothing

he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don't want to keep you

I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
you know

though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do

By W.S. Merwin


My father, whose wife took me as her own
when i was a few days old,
never much liked me, nor i him.
It doesn't matter who started it.
It was probably mutual from day one.

I don't remember much of what happened
last time i saw him -- or the first time--
Or most of the times in between.

He was not an absent father.
We slept in the same house nearly every night
for eighteen years,
But emotionaly he was an absent father,
as i was an absent son.

How does Merwin's "older friend"
know so much about his relationshiip
with his father?  I suspect we know.

I suspect that i have an Older Friend
who could tell me about my relationship with mine.
I suspect that this Friend is not interested in "form,"
but knows that i should be interested
for my own good.

But i am much like my Friend.
But much younger
and far more stupid.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
reginaterrae
Oct. 19th, 2017 10:29 am (UTC)
Well, perhaps. But I remember something from my days in Al-Anon: you have your "family of origin", and then you have your "family of choice". If your nominal father was not fatherly to you, then perhaps you have no more obligation to him than to any other person. That is, be decent, be kind, do no harm, pray for him. And then find another father figure who's willing to be a father to you. Your Al-Anon sponsor, for instance, young though he is, is "fathering" you in a way, no? And you can have all the fathers you want. And it can even be mutual, you can trade off that role between friends, as the situation calls for. Abbot James is my "father" now, which doesn't negate my birth father or my stepfather, but he is fathering me in some ways they were incapable of.

God bless you, brother. I do love you.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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