For My Father

orpheus and lot’s wife
will always look back —
that is their
humanness: loss is
our birthright

sleep, father, sleep
in your self-chosen grave
rot quietly in the earth
until your bones
decay into
time

where are
the smiles
of yesterday?
the barroom
boasts —
six guys lined up
in the Broadway
pool hall —
you with
your pool cue
like an animal trainer
needing always
to kick the shit
out of the not you
that is you

puking
slobbering —
picked up at the curb
like some
salvation army
cast-off
from that gutter
on Iliff Street

i found in your drawer:
brass knuckles
a small shiny
pistol
between the handkerchiefs
and the socks:
extensions of some
muddled masculinity
that raged in you

but you put out the fire
you sure as hell did that
one shot
from that extended
25 caliber prick
and the rage was quiet
(silent for you anyway)

we had the only
bathroom in Denver
with a window
looking out at the
walls of the back porch
(you did things your way)

i always wanted
to tell you
about the crazy
baby sitter
who watched me bathe
through that weird window
and chased me down
the street (York Street)
with a
butcher knife
and i thought —
i should be a sprinter
when i grow up

and maybe i am

sleep, father, sleep
the rage
must be silent
by now
must
be
silent
by
now
must be
silent

Discussion and Comments

  1. A very moving poem. I took a philosophy class from Bob Lane several years ago and know him as a story writer but didn’t know he also writes poetry.

    We do “always look back”! Thanks.

  2. Great poem. Suicide of a loved one is always difficult;
    The images here are testaments to a fond if difficult Father.

  3. My friend, Jerry Knoll, made some valuable editorial suggestions to the poem. Thanks, Jerry!

  4. Another example of our memories being so different, Bro. Your poem made me ache for you and your loss. I really felt almost nothing when we lost our father. I wish I could take the hurt away.

  5. By far your best poem ever. I’m so pleased it’s now published.

  6. Wow…Very powerful poem UB…another life destroyed by booze…ahh…but what a man you turned out to be!
    I am so glad we met!

  7. It is amazing how the emotion is felt through your words! Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. I agree with Beth Ralph – there is an emotional hit one gets from the poem. And yet it tells a sad story of loss and love…

  9. Beautiful & courageous!

  10. Great poem, Bob! You were able to capture the complexity of human interaction and how insidiously it filters down through memory unresolved. Thanks again.
    Ken

  11. Intense and great, Bob. Thank you!

    I didn’t know that your father committed suicide. I mean, that wasn’t just a narrative voice, or whatever they call it, was it?

    And is that really a picture of you and him? It’s wonderful.

    -Justin

  12. Justin,
    He did. Yes, that is a picture of Lester Dewey Lane and me.

  13. There is a fair amount of anger in your poem, Bob. Intense, moving, angry: I trust writing it has helped you come to terms with the loss of your father.

  14. A fine poem about father and son, and a great photo! It’s as if the writer in the present is reacting to the loss of his loved father while looking at a picture of that time in the past when all was well.

  15. Bob, a fine poem. Are you the same Bob Lane who studied philosophy at SFU way back in the day? (1975)

  16. Thanks, Harold; yes, I am the one! Still trying to decide if I am the SAME one! Cheers.

  17. Great poem. My favourite image and sounds occur here:


    the barroom
    boasts —
    six guys lined up
    in the Broadway
    pool hall —
    you with
    your pool cue
    like an animal trainer
    needing always
    to kick the shit
    out of the not you
    that is you

  18. Wow and the picture is perfect for the poem.

  19. Bob, thank you for sharing your soulful poem with me. It is brilliant.

  20. Amazing poem Bob. I suspect it took you 60 years to write. It affected me greatly. Wrote this as a small homage:

    do we ever forgive the dead
    for leaving us
    for failing
    for giving up
    knowing we too
    will do the same
    in our turn.

    how alone they seem
    trapped in their silence.
    left behind still waiting.
    all that anger
    unresolved.

  21. Bob, what an intensely private poem. I read it, re-read it, and re-read it again over the span of three days and I still don’t know if I can say anything that would matter in the mirror of your experience.

    A simple, heartfelt thank you for sharing your world. I feel your loss, the rage, the silence.

    (“loss is our birthright:” there is something so very familiar about this part of your poem, and yet I cannot place it. Some other text, something read very recently, perhaps even something you wrote elsewhere.)

  22. Cheers to Ken and Nik! I deeply appreciate your comments.

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