Learning of Grace


When I was twelve and very sick
my father sat by my hospital bed
and hand-fed me a treat from home,
but instead of being grateful
I complained he smelled of cigarettes
and uttered not a word of thanks.
He washed his hands with lemon juice
and fed me more.

On that day I learned of grace,
a lesson no sermon
could teach half as well,
for I did not deserve such kindness
and was never so gracious
with a child of my own.

February 4, 2023

This is one of several poems I’ve been working on this week. I think it’s done, but I made substantial changes to the poem just two days before posting it here. I tend to fall in love with a new poem, and that can cause problems. I often think a poem is finished, only to spot some obvious problem and then beat myself up for not seeing it sooner. I once heard Donald Hall say that he puts new poems away in his sock drawer for two or three weeks before reviewing them again and only then – maybe – does he consider a poem to be finished. That’s a good idea . . . let your poems mellow for a few weeks before sharing them with the world . . . something I didn’t do here, although I still like the poem.

Subscribe to be notified of new posts by email; it’s free.
Leave a comment so I know you were here,
and please share this blog with a friend.

(Email may be delivered to a spam or social media folder.)

A New Poem Every Monday
(tho’ sometimes life gets in the way)

Joseph Neely, all rights reserved

11 thoughts on “Learning of Grace

  1. Hi Joe,

    A good poem comes back at you an hour or a day or a week later, with heartfelt meaning that won’t let you rest.

    A great poem touches you in a personal way, calling you back to ask why it seems to touch you so deeply. “Learning of Grace” is a great poem, one I will undoubtedly think about for a while. Maybe because my own father is so recently gone, and every day I wish I could talk with him about unresolved issues I had with him. My particular issues are different from the ones you express in your poem, but the feelings are the same. The time to feel gratitude is so often not immediate, but delayed with the passage of years, until you don’t know which is worse: your initial lack of gratitude, or the fact that you didn’t realize it for what it was until it was too late to express it. I’d give anything to express my thanks to him for his grace toward me shown in his parenting style, but it’s now too late to convey those feelings face to face. When I say my prayers at bedtime, I almost always include the entreaty “Lord, say hi to Mom and Dad for me, tell them I love them and miss them, and tell them thanks for all they did in raising my brother and me.”

    Thanks for writing and sharing this poem!

    Kindest regards, your buddy forever,



  2. Thanks Joe for the thoughtful poem this morning, it was a reminder to me of my Dad & Mom. I’m thankful for how they brought up my sisters and I. Today and hopefully everyday I’ll give 🙏


  3. Beautifully said! This captures a universal feeling of gratitude for ones parents, that often comes later than is ideal & stays with you long after they are gone. You made me tear up.


  4. I love the sensory details in the first stanza especially; the smell of his hands is a great way of showing the intimacy of the moment between father and son -so tender and close.


    1. Click to see entire poem, but thanks for noticing. I’ll consider changing it back so that the entire poem is displayed, although there are problems with that approach as well.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s