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Father's Day Selections

by Kim Packard
Father, Where Do the Wild Swans Go? Father, where do the wild swans go? Far, far. Ceaselessly winging, Their necks outstraining, they haste them singing Far, far. Whither, none may know. Father, where do the cloud-ships go? Far, far. The winds pursue them, And over the shining heaven strew them Far, far. Whither, none may know. Father, where do the days all go? Far, far. Each runs and races— No one can catch them, they leave no traces— Far, far. Whither, none may know. But father, we—where do we then go? Far, far. Our dim eyes veiling, With… Read more

Father, Where Do the Wild Swans Go?

Father, where do the wild swans go?
Far, far. Ceaselessly winging,
Their necks outstraining, they haste them singing
Far, far. Whither, none may know.

Father, where do the cloud-ships go?
Far, far. The winds pursue them,
And over the shining heaven strew them
Far, far. Whither, none may know.

Father, where do the days all go?
Far, far. Each runs and races—
No one can catch them, they leave no traces—
Far, far. Whither, none may know.

But father, we—where do we then go?
Far, far. Our dim eyes veiling,
With bended head we go sighing, wailing
Far, far. Whither none may know.

By Ludvig Holstein (1864–1943)
A Danish lyric poet, Ludvig Holstein wrote poems that were set to music by a number of composers, including Carl Nielsen, Paul Scherbeck, Leevi Antti Madetoja, and Frederick Delius.

Trans. by Charles Wharton Stork
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Digging

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

Seamus Heaney , “Digging” from Death of a Naturalist. Copyright � 1969 by Seamus Heaney. Reprinted with the permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC.
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To Alexander Graham

Lying asleep walking
Last night I met my father
Who seemed pleased to see me.
He wanted to speak. I saw
His mouth saying something
But the dream had no sound.

We were surrounded by
Laid-up paddle steamers
In The Old Quay in Greenock.
I smelt the tar and the ropes.

It seemed that I was standing
Beside the big iron cannon
The tugs used to tie up to
When I was a boy. I turned
To see Dad standing just
Across the causeway under
That one lamp they keep on.

He recognised me immediately.
I could see that. He was
The handsome, same age
With his good brows as when
He would take me on Sundays
Saying we’ll go for a walk.

Dad, what am I doing here?
What is it I am doing now?
Are you proud of me?
Going away, I knew
You wanted to tell me something.

You stopped and almost turned back
To say something. My father,
I try to be the best
In you you give me always.

Lying asleep turning
Round in the quay-lit dark
It was my father standing
As real as life. I smelt
The quay’s tar and the ropes.

I think he wanted to speak.
But the dream had no sound.
I think I must have loved him.

W. S. Graham , “To Alexander Graham” from Collected Poems 1942-1977 (London: Faber, 1979).
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Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Robert Hayden , “Those Winter Sundays” from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden, edited by Frederick Glaysher.

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