Remembering a Life With the
'Cadence & Fervor of Poetry'
'My dad and I were as different as could be (I made sure of that), but his life had a clarity that I find in poetry. He was a carpenter, and if I close my eyes I can see him, thirtyish, handsome, sawdust in his hair, running a two by four through a circular saw, trimming it, holding it up to the studs, pulling a nail out from between his front teeth, taking the hammer from the loop of his pants where it hung, and pounding in the nail, three whacks, and a tap for good luck. This simple act, repeated a thousand times as he built the house up over our heads, had the cadence and fervor of poetry. He didn't earn his daily bread sitting in a conference room, manipulating people, moving big wads of cash around, spinning a web of hogwash; compared to that, his life was poetry. When he bowed his head and gave thanks before a meal, it was always the same words, the same cadence. When he took a chicken by the legs and laid its neck against the block and lifted the axe and chopped its head, there was a plain cadence to that. I hear that whack in poetry...Poetry is church. What animates poetry is faith, the same faith that moves the builder and the butcher. My dad died in the first-floor bedroom of the house he built and his death had a plain cadence to it. When I brought my three-year-old daughter to see him two weeks before he died, he wriggled his toes under the blanket to make her reach for them and then he withdrew them to make her giggle. He had been making children giggle all his life. His voice and the heat of his life can be found in poetry and nowhere else: poetry is about driving the nail in the pine, killing the chicken, mowing grass, putting luggage into the car, gratitude for food, the laughter of a little girl, about our common life.'
--from Garrison Keillor's introduction to Good Poems for Hard Times. If there has ever been a more eloquent tribute to a parent by a son or daughter, I'm not immediately aware of it. If you know of one, we'd sure like to hear about it, as of course we would also welcome your reactions to this one. And with this post, we're initiating a new policy, which we should have begun long ago: when we link to a book, it will be to the site that helps you find it at an independent bookstore near you, rather than the omnivorous Amazon. As we've said in the past, we all should support the independents!