Poems of My Father

My father, Ralph H Neely, Jr, died of suicide in 1988 when he was 62 years old. I miss him terribly – my brother and sister miss him, too – and I try to think of my dad at least once every day. Ralph would have liked the fact that I am still writing poems as I draw near to turning 70. The firsts two poems presented here were written for a booklet I put together for my family in 1995. I consider the poems in this booklet to be my early poems, although I was already approaching 40 when the poems were composed; I got a late start. The third poem, ‘A Salesman’s Shoes’, is one of the rare poems I wrote between 1995 and 2019.

ON MISSING MY FATHER

Gone five years,
there are days
I pick up the phone
right before dinner;

just to talk.

**********

THE LAUGH

My father and I
shared a laugh today,
our first in many years.

I felt him over my shoulder
as I vacuumed the car
for my son’s first date.

“Since when is this my job?”
I grumbled, and then, right there
was when he laughed.

And I realized he had vacuumed cars
for girls I’ve long since forgotten,
and he had never known.

And the moment was so perfect,
and I hugged him,
and he was gone again.

**********

A SALESMAN’S SHOES

Wet shoes are better than
cold rain on my windshield,
shopkeepers certain I carry plague,
and the puddles – small lakes, really –
I drive through in November’s gloom,
fearful my brakes will fail
with each white-knuckle crossing.

My father, after all,
sent me to college
with his wet shoes,
and taught me to laugh
while peeling off his socks.

(I wrote this poem at a time I was selling wine in Northern Michigan. I was a peddler, as my father had been.)

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Joseph Neely, all rights reserved

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