Vulnerability as Heroic – “My Father (Baby birds)”


dVerse Poets Pub has a “meeting the bar” challenge today, hosted by Victoria C. Slotto, to write about a personal hero.  I thought of an older poem (reposted below) about my father, who, as many of readers know, died recently after a protracted battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

I’m not sure that I thought of my father as much of a hero when I was young.  This may in part be because he was very generous with his time–the generosity of the archetypical hero tends to involve one swift grand swoop,  not a day-to-day slog.  For another, my dad could exhibit both deep tenderness and touching vulnerability–qualities that tends to be  “heeled” in the archetypical hero.  Finally, he was self-effacing, good at bringing out the best in others.  He tended to make us see ourselves as heroes (or at least as competent–which, for the young, is almost as good).

Here’s the poem:

My Father (baby birds)

My father’s voice
when he sang
was deep and cragged and
reminded me of a froggie
gone a’courting.
But this was baby birds.

It was not even a person
who had died.
It was not even a particularly noble dog,
though like all of its species, it was capable
of a self-debasing attachment that could
seem Arthurian.

But after the accident, the rush,
the sad blur home,
my father’s back faced me in my room
with a sound
of birds.
It silenced all gone wrong,
turned me back into a person
who could do things in the world.

(As always all rights reserved.  The drawing in this case was done by my father on an iPad  a few months before his death.)

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17 Comments on “Vulnerability as Heroic – “My Father (Baby birds)””

  1. Laurie Kolp Says:

    Oh, wow… this really touched me, especially the last stanza. That drawing brings tears to my eyes.

  2. brian miller Says:

    smiles…i dont know if we ever truly see our parents in a real light growing up honestly…my relationship with mine blossomed once i was out of their house….you def gave the heart strings a good yank in this….

  3. Chazzy Chazz Says:

    His voice sounded like birds… wow, how I heard that as you said it. He must’ve been a great man to set a child’s mind at rest, in reaction to fear or the unknown. The heroes of antiquity always came with lots of storm and fury. It’s the quiet heroes who are dear to my heart. I hope one of my children might say such words or think such thought of me.

  4. shanyns Says:

    Amazing words and wonderful memories and impressions you shared. The drawing is an extra special touch.

  5. I never had a dad in the sense you describe; a long and sad story, but I had a grandpa that more than made up for the situation.
    A wonderful write about your dad. So touching, and the drawing… man, just grabs my heart. Beautiful.

  6. Beautiful poem…so lovingly penned.

  7. claudia Says:

    a felt write and a beautiful tribute to your father…esp. the last stanza really touched me..

  8. David King Says:

    This is as powerful and as moving as they come. It is both beautiful and redemptive. Wonderful.

  9. hedgewitch Says:

    You make the insubstantial and ephemeral very real here, as it needs to be when we are hit by what is all too real, and you make us aware of just how much comfort means to the child within. Fine example of seeing the past more clearly, and knowing its grace.

  10. aka_andrea Says:

    souch a touching rendering of your tale

  11. zongrik Says:

    the fact that your father is your hero shows you had a remarkable childhood

    pedestal ivory goddess

  12. Karin, there is, indeed, so much beautiful vulnerability woven in these words. Thank you so much for allowing us to be a part of this.

  13. nickrolynd Says:

    This is such a touching piece. A lot of emotion wrapped up those words. Amazing piece. ❤

  14. Shawna Says:

    These sections in particular really took this poem to a higher level for me:

    “it was capable of a self-debasing attachment that could seem Arthurian”

    “turned me back into a person
    who could do things in the world”

    Those are the lines that really punched me.

  15. Yousei Hime Says:

    Lovingly done, and well done.

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