Father On His Son’s Birthday

Alone, on the old Manassas Battlefield,
I wait for you, for what you might be,
what I might become. I sit
on the thick grass near the Robinson House
and listen to the voices of birds,
the voices of the old bronze monuments,
the voices on the wind as it moves through the branches.

If you have grown into yourself, as I hope,
how will I recognize your voice,
the different tread of your footsteps,
the recent histories you speak?

Lonely, I walk down to the stone bridge—
Bull Run flows as it has for years uncounted—
to the new road that layers itself
upon the old road that once carried limbers
and their combative cannon.

Lonely, I trust that our battles ended,
that a reconstruction of our friendship
returns like the song birds
to find the berries ripe upon the branches,
like the farmers who till the fields
as all their forefathers before them.

If you have grown into yourself, as I hope,
you do not need me anymore,
do not require my advice or guidance.
Boldly, you make your own history.

Alone, on the old Manassas Battlefield,
I walk the slight path past the farm ford
and up the flanks of Matthews Hill
where Evans once stood up to Burnside,
where you, my son, first stood up to me.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

postscript

I ran out of new work that I felt good enough to post, since I had a tough writing week where creativity was scarce. This poem is from my book Fluid Shape Of An Empty Womb. It is one of my all time favorites of my own poems.

Like Any Good Son

Like any good son,
I was not good all the time.

Like many good sons,
I grew up, attended university,

forged my own life and career
which took me far from my father’s house.

Because I was far away in my own life,
I was not by my father’s side when he died.

He died in an auto accident,
so it is a good thing I was not by his side.

I attended his memorial in the church
he attended every Sunday for fifty years.

The service was midwestern-protestant
and beautiful in that manner.

Three hundred mourners told me
how his goodness touched them.

Like any good son, I kept quiet
about all the times he was not good.


copyright © 2020 Kenneth P. Gurney

Stiff

A father sledgehammers his son
with the “big boys don’t cry” lie.

The son learns to cry
in his own time, his own space.

There is a large rock upon the mountain
that collects his tears in a granite bowl.

The steel of the son’s spirit
strikes sparks upon the rock with each drop.

The son realizes the polished steel
is a looking glass and a weapon.

He chooses to use that steel
to prop his eyes open to the light.

In that light, he discerns the generational pain
lashed to his father’s hard words.

The son searches family photo albums
to learn what is long gone and sharply missed.

The photos devolve from color,
to black and white, to a stiff sepia.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney