On Poetry and Fathers By JUSTICE PUTNAM

Friday December 24, 2004

The one thing  

That always amazed me  


Even from the  

Earliest moment  

Of your life  


Was the utter trust  

You had in me  


And I was struck  

At the time  

By the amount  

Of doubt  


I had in myself.  


Even though  

Your mother and I  

Had half a year  

To practice breathing  


I doubted that  

I could remember  

Properly when to  

Encourage the right breath  


And when the doctor  

Said I could assist  

And I finally held  



Gray and small  


I thought to that  

Distant day  

When you would 


Hold your own son  

In the same way  


And I thought of  

The resolve you would  



Just as I had  


To love  

Like no other  

Father has loved.  


So the years pass  

And I doubt  

You felt the  

Prayer of love  


Over that distance  

And separation  


You grew in.  


A correspondence  

Is a poor substitute  

For a kiss  


Yet each word  

Was a universe  

Of touch  


I doubt it  

Was enough.  


I cannot now  



For all that you  

Went through  


I wish it were  



But mere words  

And sentiment  

Are hollow.  


You are now  

A father  


Kiss your son  

While you can  



Has a way  

Of intruding  

Upon the best  

Of plans  


And apologies  


Become terrible  





—Justice Putnamü