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For My Father

The Mountain of the Holy Cross

The Interface

–for my father, Albert John Van der Leun

The empty rituals and dusty opulence
of the nightmare’s obvious ending dwindle,
and the sounds of departing automobiles
fade into the thrum beyond the cul-de-sac.
Inside the house, my mother sits quietly,
surrounded by the plates of finger food
that everybody brought and no one ate,
and wonders if she should begin to take
his clothes from the closet, call the Goodwill.
Some blocks away, the Unitarian minister
hangs his vestments on a peg,

and goes to lunch.

I drive the Skyway to the town named Paradise,
park his car at the canyon’s rim, and sit awhile
in the hot silence of the afternoon looking out
at the far Sierras where, in June, the winter lingers.
On the seat beside me, a well-taped cardboard cube
contains what remains of my father. I step out
and, taking the cube under my arm, begin to climb
down the canyon’s lava wall to the stream below.
The going is slow, but we get to the bottom by and by
and sitting on some moss, we rest awhile, the cube and I,
beside the snow-chilled stream.

The place we have come to is where the pines lean out
from the rounded boulders lodged above the stream;
where what the stream saves builds up in the backwater,
making in the mounds of matter an inventory of the year:
Rusted tins slumped under the fallen sighs of weeds,
diminishing echoes of the swallows’ chevroned wings,
laughs buoyed in the hollow belly of stunted trees,
gears, tires, the bones of birds, brilliant pebbles,
rasping windwhish of leaf fall crushed to dust,
the thunk of bone on bark, the thud of earth on wood,
the silence of soft ash sifted onto slow chill waters.

And in such silence, he fades forever.

The stream, its waters revolving round
through river, ocean, clouds, and rain,
bears away the hands and eyes,
but still the memory remains,
answering, in pantomime,
the questions never asked:

Are these reflections but the world without,
carried on but never borne onward, westward,
towards sunlight glazed on sea’s thigh?

Or are such frail forms shaped upon the water
all the things that are, and we above immersed in air
the forms that fade, only the mere mirrors of the stream?

Is this life all that is and, once life lost,
the end of all that was, with nothing
left to be, with no pine wind to taste,
nor sun to dapple mind with dream?
Is All that Is but ash dissolving,
our lives mere rain in circles falling?

Or are we yet the center of such circles?
Is our fall a rise beyond the shawl of night,
where all shall shine contained within
that single soul, that heart of stars;
that space where sun and water meet,
that golden hand whose wounded palm
once we have shimmered into sunlight,
still remains held out forever
and ever open even in the coldest light of day.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Bill Marcus June 17, 2018, 8:05 AM

    The Interface fills my heart!

  • CC June 17, 2018, 8:33 AM

    A haunting and eloquent prose, Gerard.
    May we all meet again.

  • Bill June 17, 2018, 1:24 PM

    “They are with me still, real in memory as they were in flesh, loving and beloved forever.”

    With time this becomes ever more true

  • Rust June 17, 2018, 3:42 PM

    Thank you.

  • Lance de Boyle June 17, 2018, 11:32 PM

    “And in such silence, he fades forever.”

    I don’t cry easily, Vanderleun.

  • James ONeil June 16, 2019, 12:34 PM

    There’s nothing else to say.

  • Nori June 16, 2019, 1:49 PM

    The painting melds with the words beautifully.
    Happy Father’s Day to all of you Dads

  • NealinNevada June 16, 2019, 6:18 PM

    “And in such silence, he fades forever.”

    As Buddy Holly said: “Not fade away!” Your father will never fade away, as my father will not fade away. Ever!

  • Auntie Analogue June 16, 2019, 7:54 PM

    From a time of blessed innocence and modest public decency . . . : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-vYuV3OmhE

  • Casey Klahn June 16, 2019, 7:56 PM

    There won’t be any more men like our fathers. We try, and it’s the best we can do.

    Mountain of the Holy Cross. That brings me also to my father, who you’ve all read about time and time again, here.

    You are a good man, Mr. VanderLeun. You wear your father’s mantle lightly upon your shoulders. What else can we hope for?

  • Sarah Rolph June 17, 2019, 4:10 AM

    Thank you.

  • NealinNevada June 17, 2019, 6:39 AM

    “And in such silence, he fades forever.”

    As Buddy Holly sang: Not fade away…Never!

  • Kurt Miller April 18, 2021, 9:14 AM

    “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.” Luke 20:38

    …we will meet on that beautiful shore…

  • Jack April 18, 2021, 11:16 AM

    I’m moved. Absolutely moved by that that lovely and thoughtful reflection of your dad. And you are fortunate to have loved him, and he you, like that.

    My dad was a good man and I always thought that of him but I was too enigmatic for him and our relationship was cordial and friendly, maybe even loving in its own way, but never close. I remember, after I finally matured, grew up and became sensitive to him I always told him that I loved him whenever we would end a phone conversation or when it came time for me to leave after being home for a short visit. I know he heard it but I don’t know if he ever felt that way in return.

    But I don’t worry about it and I haven’t thought about it recently until I read this day’s poem. Best thing I’ve read in a long time. Think I’ll go out and reload now.

  • Kevin in PA April 18, 2021, 4:13 PM

    Another one that caught me right in the throat.
    The kind of stuff that lets you know you are still alive.

  • Terry April 18, 2021, 5:49 PM

    My Dad will be 96 this June. I have loved him all my life. Sure, we had some disagreements, but we always got past them with love and respect for each other.

    Thank you for posting this again Gerard. Tomorrow being April 19 makes this a special time for me and our nation. April 19, 1775 to be exact.

  • Annie Rose April 19, 2021, 5:24 AM

    Your beautiful words painted the longing we all have for our fathers and contemplation on the meaning of memories and life. My mind frequently turns to my dad this past crazy year. I wish we could have those conversations about life that we used to have. I was blessed to have him for 56 years of my life. Thank you for your words.

  • Double XX April 19, 2021, 6:05 AM

    WOW !!!!! THANK YOU

  • gwbnyc April 21, 2021, 11:27 AM

    I scattered my father’s ashes along a sandy lane where he undoubtedly walked with my mother while courting her. It was a bright, breezy day and a fair amount of his remains, blown about, dusted my pantlegs. A hint of a smile. I brushed off my clothing, and watched the wind take the last of him.