Father’s Day: Looking West [2020 Loraine Williams Poetry Prize Featured Finalist]

Is man no more than this?
                  —King Lear


From twelve floors up, looking across the roofs,
we get a glimpse of Jersey, glimpse of Hudson, 
evening sky. Window wide open. Breeze.
My folks—my mother’s ninety-three and blind,
my father’s ninety-five and crippled—sit 
by the window, eating quietly. Below, 
there is a tiny park, with benches, trees,
places to hide and seek, jump rope.
From time to time, a block away on Broadway, 
the number one train—elevated here—
rattles along toward Harlem and the Heights.
The neighborhood is pleasantly supplied:
boutiques with produce lavishly displayed,
a bakery, a liquor store with decent French.
So life’s okay.                 
                       In here, it’s winding down. 
And as I hand my parents food, or try
to tell them once again what day it is,
or when their next appointments are, or why—
for the hundredth time—they shouldn’t feel depressed,
I can’t help wondering just what this life
is meant to be about.  
                                       It’s Father’s Day.
I bring the cake, uncork the special bottle,
and so we sit and have dessert. From time   
to time, my mother takes my hand. “It is
so comforting,” she says, “to have you here.” 
I pour some more Vouvray. My father wipes 
the buttercream from his glazed lips, and lifts 
his glass, and sips. My mother talks of books
she wants to read when she gets back her sight.
I don’t say anything. I pour more wine.
And all at once, my father, still a priest,
sings out, full voice, snatches of evensong,
“Lord, open thou our lips, and let our mouths
show forth thy praise.” And then sits quietly.
We hear the sounds of children’s games outside.
It’s almost dusk. The subway rumbles north.


David Landon is the winner of the 2019 Write Prize, awarded by Able Muse. His poems have also appeared in The Dark Horse, The Southwest Review (Marr Prize runner-up), Think Journal, Birmingham Poetry Review, Sewanee Theological Review, Southern Poetry Review (Guy Owen Prize finalist), Cumberland River, American Journal of Poetry, the Harvard Advocate Centennial Anthology, and elsewhere. He is the Bishop Frank A. Juhan Professor of Theatre Arts Emeritus at the University of the South.