The Hermit Poet

April 21, 2007

My father’s favorite poem of mine

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 1:41 pm

My father loved this poem — a poem I wrote for him when he was grieving for his father 10 years ago. Even as I wrote it, I was considering how my father wasn’t just my father, but someone else’s son. And I thought then that like him one day I too would be grieving my father’s loss. Now that day has come.


pulling through Montana in the snow
we cling to the tail lights of the last car
blurring back into the darkness
“Like the inside of a coffin,” my father says
as if knowing the exact shade the dead see
lying stiff, frozen eyes peering up through closed lids

he shifts in his seat, watches the road disappear
thinks again of dying and the burials we’ve seen
his father’s simple reduction to ashes
how small the urn, how light, for a man
that stood 6’3, carried a boy on his shoulders,
lived on trains as a youth, picked apples as a man

this past summer, watching him thin
to disappearing, blurring out lines between lives
my father trying to return pieces, fragments, time
the body burning, the dark smells of crematoriums,
funeral homes, pale face lawyers
something merges, ends, and begins again

my father placing the ashes back into the air
offerings to the skies, to the seas,
unaware how Buddhist he is at this moment
how the faint sound of bagpipes echoes
how the ashes fall catching light
reflecting something back into the silence

the dark birth of the sun coming into view.

© 2007 Neil Aitken. First published in Inscape Journal vol 19:1, (1998)

6 Responses to “My father’s favorite poem of mine”

  1. Louise Says:

    I am so sorry for your loss Neil. This is a beautiful poem. You are in my thoughts.

  2. Pris Says:

    I found the import of this post in Facebook. The poem is painfully beautiful. It brought tears.

  3. Michael Says:

    Love this poem, Neil, especially the ending. Such hope amidst the hard reality of loss. Very thoughtfully, beautifully written. Been thinking of you all day….

  4. Mary Chi-Whi Says:

    A richly beautiful work, Neil. My thoughts and prayers are with you.


  5. Fran Bourassa Says:

    Some poems make me cry.


  6. shann palmer Says:

    Beautiful poem- I found you from Silliman’s blog and I’m so glad to have read this poem.

    I am sad for your loss.

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