Feeling the Oar

Feeling the Oar July 29, 2013

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My new book of poems, Reduced to Joy, is just being published. The book contains seventy-three poems, retrieved and shaped over the last thirteen years, about the nature of working with what we’re given till it wears us through to joy. For the next few months, I’d like to share poems from the new book with you.

I spend a great deal of time in planes, on my way to and from. In this poem, I tripped into a moment of seeing myself as the grown son of a man I am more like than I realized.

 

Feeling the Oar

I was in the air, frustrated

that fog had delayed us. Now,

I would miss my flight to Dallas

where I was on my way to speak

about obstacles as teachers.

I was feeling pissed off

when I noticed my left hand

on the seat—it was my father’s

hand—the large knuckles, the

pronounced veins, the bark-like

wrinkles at the base of my thumb.

It was his hand as I had seen it

countless times: guiding a piece of

wood through a band saw or tapping

on an open book as he would

try to understand.

I opened and closed it like

someone waking from a long sleep.

It is the hand I write with. And it

is weathered, an immigrant hand,

rough from crossing many seas.

Had it not been for the fog and the

delay, I wouldn’t have noticed.

I touched it with my other hand;

trying to know my father,

trying to feel the oar,

trying to remember the sea.

A Question to Walk With: Is one of your parents or relatives someone you feel most like? If so, who is that person and what traits of theirs do you find coming alive in you?


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