Jun. 15, 2003

My Father's Song

by Simon J. Ortiz

SUNDAY, 15 JUNE 2003
(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "My Father's Song," by Simon F. Ortiz from A Good Journey (University of Arizona Press).

My Father's Song

Wanting to say things,
I miss my father tonight.
His voice, the slight catch,
the depth from his thin chest,
the tremble of emotion
in something he has just said
to his son, his song:

We planted corn one spring at Acu-
we planted several times
but this one particular time
I remember the soft damp sand
in my hand.

My father had stopped at one point
to show me an overturned furrow;
the plowshare had unearthed
the burrow nest of a mouse
in the soft moist sand.

Very gently, he scooped tiny pink animals
into the palm of his hand
and told me to touch them.
We took them to the edge
of the field and put them in the shade
of a sand moist clod.

I remember the very softness
of cool and warm sand and tiny alive mice
and my father saying things.

Literary Notes:

Today is Father's Day. The idea for a day to thank and celebrate fathers came from a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd in 1909, after she listened to a Mother's Day sermon. She had been raised by her father, Henry Jackson Smart and wondered why there wasn't an official day when she could let him know how grateful she was to him. She held the first Father's Day celebration in Spokane, Washington on June 19, 1910. In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge made it an official holiday, proclaiming the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. J. August Strindberg said, "That is the thankless position of the father in the family-the provider for all, and the enemy of all." Bertrand Russell said, "The fundamental defect with fathers is that they want their children to be a credit to them." Oscar Wilde said, "Fathers should neither be seen nor heard. That is the only proper basis for family life."

It's the birthday of science writer Dava Sobel, born in New York City in 1947. Her mother was trained as a chemist and her father was a doctor. She was inspired by Carl Sagan to start writing about science for non-scientific people, and got a job writing about psychology and psychiatry for the New York Times. In 1996, she wrote Longitude, which tells how the 18th century scientist and clockmaker William Harrison solved the problem of determining east-west location at sea. Without longitude, many ships traveled so far off course that sailors would starve or die of scurvy before they reached land. Sobel's latest book is Galileo's Daughter, published in 2000, based on 124 letters from the hand of the daughter of the great Italian astronomer.

It's the birthday of American poet Amy Clampitt, born on a farm in New Providence, Iowa in 1920. She wrote poetry in high school but had quit by the time she graduated from Grinnell College. She moved to New York City, where she worked as a secretary, a reference librarian at the Audubon Society, and a freelance editor. She began writing poetry again in the 1960s, and finally published her first collection, The Kingfisher in 1983, when she was 63 years old. She published five more celebrated books in the next twelve years.

It's the birthday of English children's author Reverend Wilbert Vere Awdry, born in Romsey, Hampshire in 1911, remembered for writing stories about Thomas the Tank Engine and his locomotive friends. His father was a clergyman who loved trains and used to tell him stories of railway engines. He wrote 26 books on his own and collaborated with his son Christopher on 40 more.

It's the birthday of psychologist Erik Erikson, born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1902. He argued that the human life cycle could be understood as a series of developmental stages, and coined the term "identity crisis."

It's the birthday of Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa, born in Kashiwabara, Japan in 1763. He wrote over 20,000 haiku that celebrate the small wonders of life, and wrote under the pen name "Issa," which means "Cup-of-Tea."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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