Sean Rima: “My Father and the Whale”.

 

In honor of my father’s birthday tomorrow. I miss you, Dad.

rev s

 

My father and the whale.

My father.

Was the captain
of his high school football
team, and the Track & Field
Team, and
the Debate Team, too.

Didn’t learn how to drive
until he was 18, because the
pretty girls drove him
everywhere
he needed to go.

Could conjugate Latin
verbs, and recite Carl Sandburg
and Henry David Thoreau, and
used to spend hours and
hours at the library,
he said, be-
cause it was
The Depression,
and the library was free.

Used to high-dive off
the black cliffs of Hawaii
in the 1950’s, and once had
a blue whale surface next
to his tiny fishing boat,
and though, he said,
it worried him the
creature
would breech
and crush him
flat beneath its massive
white belly, he kept his 8 mm
camera rolling anyway,
because it was
the most beautiful
and frightening
thing
he had
ever seen.

My father.

Used to take me
fishing, on the Chesapeake,
on Saturdays, when I was a
kid and he was my age now, in
a twelve foot skiff-craft
he named his
“Li’l Hustler,”
and I remember
his tiny hairy legs
rolling with the break, and
his round, white belly leaning
into the waves like the bow
of his vessel, his belly and
his legs and the boat
skipping across
the glass of
the bay like
a single,
elegant sea creature,
his gnarly fist working
the throttle and the wheel,
the other gripping a can
of Pabst Blue Ribbon,
and always, from the
gray-speckled
forest of
his Hemingway
beard, the butt of a
smoldering menthol cigarette,
and, from someplace within
the beard, from the deepest
part of him,
a wry smile,
I imagine, as if he
were the only man,
in the world, at that precise
moment, who understood
what it means to be free,
as I bounced
around the benches
and the hull like
a rag doll,
just
barely
holding on.

My dad.

Like all our dads,
if they’re here at all, is
now old and white and frail,
like a piece of thin, frosted
glass, and,
like all our dads,
he’ll be a
ghost someday,
an echo that I’ll
rage and weep and
laugh over, whenever
he pings my heart like a

blue whale’s song,
traveling thousands
and thousands
of miles across
the ocean,

and I rack
my brains,
over
and over
and over
again,
trying to
remember if

I ever told him,

“I love you, Dad,

and I’m proud

to be your son…”

 

____

Copyright 2019 by Sean Rima.

“Poems” by Sean Rima to be released may 11, 2019 by Lulu Press.

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