Father and Son

I. The Modern Daedalus

I want you to carry yourself with pride:
Stand up straight, with your shoulders back; don’t slouch;
and yet, also, don’t let hubris deride
you. Be humble. Get off that cushy couch
I only could afford by working hard,
from the ground up. Now come into my shop.
We’ll woodwork, weld; go out into the yard:
You’ll get a dead-car running, hear it pop.
Shake hands firm; the respect of men you’ll earn.
Paint with care, clean your brushes in the sink.
Help me plumb, solder, shingle the roof, learn
to like learning: Math, Science, etc.. Think
for yourself; but know you don’t know it all.
Otherwise, son, eventually you’ll fall.

II. The Modern Icarus

I need to do it my way. I am proud
of him, a lot; he’s like a Superdad.
He’s so well-rounded; skills in him abound
which none of my buddies’ fathers have had.
And yet, what is it about his shadow
that makes me want to rise up above it?
Is it a son thing? a human thing? Go
higher, faster, farther; I don’t love it.
It’s capitalistic: beating one’s dad.
It’s stupidly progressive; it’s insane;
and yet it’s in me. I have got it bad.
This social instinct or my pride must wane.
For when he tells me to slow down or die,
some perverse imp decides I ought to fly.


The Givers

We thought the joy resided in each gift
received beneath resplendent evergreens
bestrewn with silver tinsel, ornaments
suspended with gold sequins, angels preened.
Voraciously (while children ached in huts),
we’d tear the wrapping like greed-blinded squirrels
shucking the shells of indehiscent nuts
while knowing parents hid us from the world.

We’re older now, more generous and glad
to sit back smiling, watching others lift
a special something we picked out or made,
slightly embarrassed when we get a gift:
knowing already we have more than most.
The true joy is in giving like a host.


The Organ Harvester

(The transplant surgeon tasked with murdering innocent Falun Gong practitioners for their organs.)

I am the reaper black and red
    with blood which sticks like chaff to sweat.
I use my scythe on breathing dead.
    It is a scalpel sharp and wet.

I labor in the killing fields.
    I work with deadpanned doctors frank
to see what vivisection yields.
    We are employed by organ banks.

Sometimes I take my mind off it
    and picture fragrant fields that sway;
where a horse whinnies at the bit
    and we are merely mowing hay—

Or mining rubies in the dirt…
    I pluck out hearts and livers live
It is no use; I cannot skirt
    the bloody truth— O try! Contrive

some sound excuse for things you do:
    It is a sort of social fête.
Our government I cannot rue
    the Mayans or the Aztecs ate

these very organs. Their dumb slaves
    were sacrificed to fictive gods.
What animals? The vision laves
    my guilt. We’re plucking peas from pods.

I help so many other folks
    who are not guilty of misdeeds.
The Falun Gong who wear the yokes
    are to these better plants, the weeds.

They should be plucked and shaken, used
    before they march to their demise.
I do not care if they’re abused.
    I do not look them in the eyes.

I am the reaper black and red.
    There is no god or souls: I’m told.
There is Social Progress instead.
    One sheep is not worth all the fold.


Reid McGrath is a poet living in the Hudson Valley of New York.

Featured Image: Daedalus and Icarus,” 1625, by Orazio Riminaldi (1593-1660). Wadsworth Museum of Art, Hartforth.

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2 Responses

  1. Mike Ellwood

    Very impressed with ‘Father and Son’ in particular. Reads well, the clever rhymes and iambic rhythm unobtrusive. I enjoy finding contemporary significance in classical literature.

  2. Reid McGrath

    Thanks, Mike. The pitch of the “Father and Son” poem was meant to be very conversational, almost as if it were to be acted out, or recited in a play. Visually, architectonically, they are not my favorite poems. But they are some of my favorite poems to recite. So I am glad you enjoyed them too. BTW: “perverse imp” is an allusion to an Edgar Allan Poe short story (somewhat of an essay) called “The Imp of the Perverse.” I meant to include a footnote in there. Cheers. RM.


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