A Poem for my Dad 5/12/12
May 4 marked the third anniversary of my dad’s death. Last weekend was my mom’s unveiling in Philadelphia. Along with family and friends, I went out to Roosevelt Memorial Park where both my parents are buried along with my sister Lise, my brother Rich, and other family members. It was sobering to see the line-up of graves.
I wanted particularly to remember my dad in some small way. I found a Wendell Berry poem that I wanted to share that evokes my dad. My dad loved horses. Earlier in his life, he owned some horses and both my parents, Lise and I all rode. I think Lise was the most accomplished rider among us, a skill she had honed at Camp Red Wing.
Dad’s horses were kept in a stable in Fairmount Park. We used to ride on trails through the park that sometimes overlooked the Expressway in Philadelphia. We would ride on Saturday. I remember the trails as quiet early in the morning when we rode. I have no idea if there are still people riding those trails or if they even exist anymore. Philadelphia has developed so much since those days. I know that old stable where we kept horses is long gone. My dad had a horse named Sugar that he rode western. When I started riding he had bought me a pony named Shoe-Shoe. I graduated to bigger horses and we had some great times riding together.
My dad used to subscribe to Appaloosa Magazine. I loved the horse pictures. I used to read that along with my beloved Sports Illustrated. Dad used to keep this incredibly fancy western saddle in our house that had belonged to my Uncle Joe. The saddle had not been used for many years and was mostly a display piece in our old house at 284 Melrose Road. If I recall correctly, Dad gave the saddle back to Hank Cohen before Hank died.
I think of my dad as a horse person. Dad, this poem is for you.
Come Forth by Wendell Berry
I dreamed of my father when he was old.
We went to see some horses in a field;
They were sorrels, as red almost as blood,
the light gold on their shoulders and haunches.
Though they came to us, all a-tremble
with curiosity and snorty with caution,
they had never known bridle or harness.
My father walked among them, admiring,
for he was a knower of horses, and these were fine.
He leaned on a cane and dragged his feet
along the ground in hurried little steps
so that I called to him to take care, take care,
as the horses stamped and frolicked around him.
But while I warned, he seized the mane
of the nearest one. “It’ll be all right,”
he said, and then from his broken stance
he leapt astride, and sat lithe and straight
and strong in the sun’s unshadowed excellence.