in memoriam, April 2021
There was, above all, an assumed competence
in his relating to the world.
No problem or project but sense
could be made, order unfurled.
There were the tools of the trade—
the tractor, the honeybee smoker,
the lathe, the vice, the blade—
Turning with me my own little baseball bat—
Zack ’98 woodburned on the fat
And Piney Pony, of course, the little wheeled horse,
now delighting down to the fourth generation.
No creature on God’s green earth caught him unexpected
I see him
Casually grabbing the smashed-head cottonmouth by the tail
we had almost just stepped on.
Cupping a carpenter bee and placing it in my trembling hand,
saying, “These kind don’t sting.”
Teaching me to bait and cast and reel, to snag the jerking flounder
from midair, which he later filleted and fried.
My young and abiding awe
at a house built by his own hand,
the array of skill which set columns
and screened the porch and plumbed the fountain
and wound the staircase
and papered the bathroom with the Japanese print.
As he got older, his hands less full, he turned to stories
of jobs done well, and on the cheap—
the house framed in one week flat.
For all his know-how, he had fewer words when it came
to the things which exceeded him.
This is where, I have to guess, he reached the realm beyond his competence,
where he most met life’s limits—-
the love of a faithful wife and sons,
of the God whose own death won
for him and them a crown eternal.
Here God’s wide world exceeded his grasp,
and could not be managed or advantaged so much as
simply and gratefully received,
As when, untold decades older than us, in pale yellow swimtrunks,
he led us boys into the regal, churning Atlantic,
taught us to pick and choose just the right wave and
stretched out his hands, ducked his head,
and rode it all the way in.