by: Li-Young Lee
To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.
I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.
Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife’s right hand.
Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.
As most of you probably know, my dad died in February. I have sort of been sticking away from talking about fathers this week. Call it denial or avoidance. I prefer to think of it as compartmentalization. I keep thoughts of my dad locked up so that I can go about my life without feeling sad all the time.
However, since tomorrow is Father's Day, I've decided to share one of my favorite poems about fatherhood, in honor of Fred D. Achatz. Not a perfect man by any means. But he loved his family. Deeply.
Saint Marty is opening the compartment a little here.