There are hands to do what his have always done—
To till rows in the river bottom soil,
To tie a hook onto a grandchild’s line,
To lower shrimp into the pot to boil,
To point a berry picker to his row.
Life does go on.
Those hands aren’t his—sometimes I can’t forgive them
For fumbling at the tasks he did with grace.
My own hands are too slow, too thin, too young
To fill a role that is my father’s place.
His ever present absence taunts us—
We will not find him.
The rows in this year’s garden must be brave.
We planted one more spring with seeds he chose.
How deep? How far apart? We ask each other,
The river soil he loved between our toes.
We learn as he did—wishing we could ask
A father’s grave.
A word from the poet: When he was in his twenties, my dad lost his father to congestive heart failure. A few weeks ago, I lost him to a heart attack. Hence, I “learn as he learned.” I wrote this poem on April 6th, which would have been his sixty-second birthday.
Claudia Martin is more often surprised than correct about what the next season of life will bring—and in retrospect, almost always grateful for that.
Photography by Kenneth Godoy