Poetry and Poetics
WITH MY FATHER
My father took up golf in middle age,
the dumbest game I ever tried to play,
but it was nineteen-sixty-nine, and I
was at a loss to figure out a way
to bridge the gaping generation gap
that lay between us like an open wound:
the ex-Marine just back from Vietnam
and telling anyone who’d listen what
a crock of crap the myth of manhood was;
the minister who’d spent his life convinced
his cousin Bob had died in Germany
because my dad had never been to war.
Not a lot of common ground between us
in those bad old days of Richard Nixon,
Jimi Hendrix, burning bras, and LSD.
So the afternoon my dad invited me
to play a round, I figured what the heck,
it can’t be all that hard to hit a ball
that isn’t moving, and it’s something he
and I can do together. Which it was.
Or wasn’t. More exactly, it was something
he could do while I could only hack my
way from hole to hole like some demented
backhoe operator digging random
trenches by the dozen ten and fifteen
yards apart from here to Kingdom Come.
Dad tried to coach me, but he might as well
have tried to teach a mackerel how to dance.
Before we reached the seventh hole, with what
few shreds of sanity I still had left
I realized I’d better quit before
I killed someone: my dad, or me—or maybe
the sonofabitch a hole behind us
laughing every time another chunk of God’s
green acres sailed farther than the ball.
Next time my dad suggested golf, we went
for lunch to Meg & Bill’s instead. They served
a wicked cheesesteak sandwich and we ate
in silence, elbows on the counter top,
shoulders hunched, our fingers dripping grease.
© by W.D. Ehrhart
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