Jun. 18, 2006

March 8

by David Lehman

Poem: "March 8" by David Lehman from The Evening Sun: A Journal in Poetry. © Scribner Poetry. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

March 8

Every so often my father comes over
for a visit he hangs his overcoat and hat
on my hat rack I brief him on recent
developments and serve us coffee
he is surprised that I like to cook
once when he made an omelette
he flipped it in the air much to my delight
and it landed on the floor yes that
was the summer of 1952, he remembered
the high breakers and how fearless
I was running into the ocean anyway
the important thing is to see you doing
so well he said and took his coat and hat
and left before I remembered he was dead

Literary and Historical Notes:

Today is Father's Day, a holiday that we celebrate because of a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd. One Sunday morning in May of 1909, Dodd was sitting in church in Spokane, Washington, listing to a Mother's Day sermon. And she thought there ought to be a holiday to celebrate fathers as well. So she went on a crusade to celebrate fathers, and the tradition of observing Father's Day caught on, though not quite as quickly as the tradition of Mother's Day. Mother's Day became an official holiday in 1914, but Father's Day wasn't officially recognized until 1972, almost sixty years later.

Many writers have had difficult relationships with their fathers. When Charles Bukowski was a teenager, his father stumbled upon some of his short stories and read them. Bukowski came home that day to find his clothes, his typewriter, and all the stories he had written lying on the lawn outside his front door.

John Cheever's father was a hard-drinking shoe salesman and an unpredictable man. One night, while setting the table, Cheever's mother casually mentioned that she and his father had gotten into a fight, and his father had decided to drown himself at the local beach. Though he didn't have a driver's license, Cheever jumped in the family car and drove to the beach as fast as he could. He found his father drunk, riding a roller coaster, and had to coax him down and bring him home.

When Franz Kafka was a young boy, he once shouted for a glass of water in the middle of the night, and his father pulled him out of bed, put him on the courtyard balcony, and locked him out of the house. He later wrote, "For years thereafter, I kept being haunted by fantasies of this giant of a man, my father, the ultimate judge, coming to get me in the middle of the night."

The poet Hart Crane's father was the wealthy owner of a candy company, who couldn't understand why Hart Crane wanted to be a poet. His father constantly threatened to disown Hart Crane unless he got a real job.

Stephen King's father was a merchant seaman who deserted the family when Stephen was two. He has no memories of the man, but one day he found a boxful of his father's science fiction and fantasy paperbacks, including an anthology of stories by horror author H. P. Lovecraft. That box of his father's books inspired him to start writing horror stories.

August Strindberg said, "That is the thankless position of the father in the family—the provider for all, and the enemy of all."

It's the birthday of Amy Bloom, (books by this author) born in New York City (1953). She's the author of the novel Love Invents Us (1996) and the collection of short stories A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You (2000).

It's the birthday of novelist Gail Godwin, (books by this author) born in Birmingham, Alabama (1937). She's the author of many books, including The Odd Woman (1974), The Finishing School (1985), and The Good Husband (1994).

Today is the anniversary of the day in 1815 that Napoleon Bonaparte lost his final major battle near Waterloo Village in Belgium. He was defeated by the British and the Prussians and by an untimely thunderstorm.

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




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