I’ve long considered my dad to be a businessman. Growing up, he provided the yin to my mother’s artistic, almost bohemian yang. I thought my creative side came from my mother, and that I got mostly that, although I managed to pick up a thing or two I could use with the other side of my brain from my dad. But even though my dad is a genius at business, he also, more than anyone else in the family, has an appreciation for poetry.
Over the years my dad has quoted many a poet. And I’m not talking about the short rhyming variety. He’s memorized beautiful, long verses, and can readily bring them up to recite to a surprised and delighted audience. His embracing poetry has always been something I appreciated, but did not share. Not that I don’t like poetry, just that my life, full of family and work, was kind of busy for it, I guess. When my kids were small, he gave me a book of poetry. We read out of it, but when the kids got older, the book went on a shelf.
I spent the last two weeks with my extended family at our annual get-together. Now, I’ve returned to my so-called normal life with one new thought: Poetry.
For the occasion of my parent’s anniversary, some of us discovered a love poem he had written to my mom years ago. We put it to music and played the guitar and sang it to them. Much practice was necessary, to be able to get through the song without choking up. Poetry.
Around the campfire, a song we sang reminded my dad of a poem, and he asked if I knew it. I said no. With much cacophony going on all around us, he leaned in and recited it in my ear. It was beautiful and long. And although I loved the words I didn’t exactly catch it’s meaning. The next day I looked it up online and it took me several readings before I understood. It was as if I was dropped off in a foreign country in the middle of a language I couldn’t understand, and then out of nowhere, suddenly became fluent. The poem was Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms, by Thomas Moore. After about the fourth reading, what at first sounded like a string of flowery words became the most beautiful love poem, telling a woman she would always be beautiful, even when she looked like a dried up old stick. The beauty of that brought tears to my eyes. Poetry.
The next night, in the farmhouse kitchen, my sister-in-law and I recorded my dad reciting that poem, and then us singing it. Poetry.
There was poetry in the weather, that rained the day after we got sunburned.
There was poetry in the child that sprained her ankle and then became closer to a cousin she’d never met before, who liked to play nursemaid.
There was poetry in the perfect fit of the beam into it’s slot, on the cabin everyone was helping build.
When my dad and I were walking across a field together I mentioned how I hadn’t had much poetry in my life. That we had that book he had given us, but I hadn’t read it in a while. And then, of course, it dawned on me. Poetry is all over the place. I’m just starting to become a little more fluent.