Reluctant to Take

They say the streets are dirty
but you could eat off the sidewalks,
their names with z and k sounds,
the granite steps worn and shining
from the corn brooms they leaned on
beside the old stick chairs,
surveying passersby like invading soldiers.
My father used to lean on his rake that way,
his arms folded in a wool shirt, ankles crossed,
what was left of the farm in that pose,
the hay rakes and shovels of Ireland,
his hands callused but with a soft grip,
reluctant to take much into his hands
except the cigarette and the old rake,
the fallen leaves a ritual for him,
even when he couldn’t leave the bed
staring out the window,
the thoughts he had unspoken
until he’d ask how he looked
and I’d look away for answer enough,
and he’d say “if I weren’t sitting here I’d be fine”
as if only the pose made him ill,
if the rake were beneath him
brushing the broad maple leaves
that would keep him here and us together.
I’m almost as old as him now
finding my hand beneath my chin,
scratching my beard in the same way,
looking through the window to the gray sky
thinking if I weren’t just sitting here..
my hands not as calloused
but the same soft grip
reluctant to take too much
but wanting to stay,
to sweep the earth
and keep the thread alive.



Grandpa Mike and family


12 Responses to “Reluctant to Take”

  1. Warmly, sweetly, I’m tingled all the way to my roots, having read “Reluctant to Take” and then looking through my window, too.

  2. jack says:

    Thanks for wanting to keep the thread alive Don……this hits quite close to home, even though our stories are very different……

  3. Adrianna says:

    Oh, Don! What a wonderful photo to illustrate a piece so filled with emotion and sweet memory. Your darling, darling girls and their grandpa…aaah.

  4. Lloyd Meeker says:

    How much can one man do to keep the thread alive? One man isn’t enough, the thread is too long, and branched so beautifully that thread and weave are indistinguishable. I’m so grateful that one man keeping the thread alive is you, Don. The thread lives, bigger than any one of us, bigger than all of us together. It’s a sacred trust to hold it as long as we do.

  5. David Banner says:

    Heartfelt and beautiful, Don….brings tears.

  6. Richard Woodling says:

    Very, very touching

  7. Rose says:

    Poignant. So well said.

    And the photo is perfect to connect us with him, and with you.

  8. Eleanor GillMilner says:

    No words here. The photo is enough and it is a great gift to have known and know all four of you. Such a blessing.

  9. Paul Blythe says:

    A reminder of the often taken for granted moments as a father.

  10. Pat Fitzsimmons says:

    My goodness Don, this is such a tender and intimate story of being with your father. Since I knew him personally, it also brings to heart my dad. Both of them Irish, salt of the earth, each of them gifting us the heartstrings that we share today.

  11. Life is really known through the mundane tasks and simple images isn’t it. It is good to be reminded of my own father and twinkle in his eye, wonderfully captured here.

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