"Cardinal Grosbeak" by J.J. Audubon‘My Father’s Cardinal’ by Cynthia Erlandson The Society January 11, 2021 Beauty, Poetry 16 Comments . I wonder where my father’s cardinal is— The colored-pencil drawing that he made In art class—he was only in fourth grade, I’d been impressed to learn. _____________________It was not his Idea to frame and hang it up, because His fear of pride was inbred intuition. “Mom likes it.” He’d wave off my admiration. It’s very good; he doesn’t say it’s not; Reluctantly he tells me, when I question, That he’d not drawn since school; implied he thought That art is something we can do without; Time spent on it is rarely sensible When there are bills to pay, more practical Things to be done; it’s merely a distraction— Legitimate, perhaps, for relaxation, But scarcely meant to be a true pursuit. He used his gift in other ways, no doubt, Pursuing projects much more functional. With nimble fingers, twenty-twenty vision, And self-taught skills (no need for inspiration), He’d fix a broken vase, or paint a wall, Sew sleeping-bags to take on our vacation, Or build a spice rack. ________________One year he spent all His spare time with a pencil and a ruler To mark where nails would go, then put up walls That, by the end of summer, lined the halls Of our new second floor. With saw and hammer And noisier, more mystifying tools, He crafted, in a sawdust-clouded clamor, Two bedrooms—one for me, one for my sister. He saw it not as art—just made a nest where We girls spent pleasant years. He, the pragmatic, Made light of all our praise, and was emphatic That all he’d done was follow well-made blueprints; His talent was a matter of indifference To him, compared with practical precision And finishing the job; he never thought Of beauty for its own sake—never got Past seeing each project just as an equation With factors, operation sign, solution. He had no zone of artist’s second sight (He would have been embarrassed by it.) Quite Oblivious to any sort of muse, He made the kind of art that people use, Unconscious of his gift— __________________as is the red And graceful bird that builds a nest instead Of perching where admirers can see His brilliance—heedless of humility Or pride, of being beautiful or useful. I wonder what became of father’s cardinal. . . Cynthia Erlandson is a poet and fitness professional living in Royal Oak, Michigan. She has had poems published in First Things, Modern Age, Measure Journal, Anglican Theological Review, The North American Anglican, Forward in Christ, and the Anthologies The Slumbering Host (ed. Clinton Collister), and A Widening Light, (ed. Luci Shaw) NOTE: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 16 Responses Paul A. Freeman January 11, 2021 Wonderful, Cynthia! I’m particularly glad you didn’t go down the maudlin route, thereby making the poem one of celebration and mild regret. Reply Cynthia Erlandson January 11, 2021 Thank you, Paul! I think I have very sensitive antennae for anything “maudlin”, in poetry and elsewhere. It’s one of my definite no-no’s. (It’s also why I have a hard time finding acceptable greeting cards, and sometimes just make my own.) Reply Joe Tessitore January 11, 2021 Very beautiful, Cynthia and boy, does it strike a chord! Reply Cynthia Erlandson January 11, 2021 Thank you, Joe. I’m glad it struck a chord with you. Reply Jeff Eardley January 11, 2021 Cynthia, my parents generation were the ones who went through a war a then just carried on making the world a better place for we baby-boomers. Poetry and art were left to be discovered in lofts, or old handbags prior to funerals. Your poem conveys imagery to which we can all identify. As a long deceased saxophonist friend of mine once said, “If I hadn’t been a musician, I could have done something useful” Thank you for a lovely read. Reply Cynthia Erlandson January 11, 2021 Thank you very much, Jeff. I like the imagery in your comment, as well, about lofts and old handbags. Reply Julian D. Woodruff January 11, 2021 Mr. Eardley, You remind me of a rhetorical question put by the flutist for the San Francisco Street Orchestra as the East Bay contingent speed across the Bay Bridge to set up for one of its weekly noon concerts (on the warm days of the early ’70s): “Why are we doing this?” His answer: “We’re all too chicken to drive buses.” Reply Julian D. Woodruff January 11, 2021 Sped, of course. When will I get around to that blind typing course? Reply Jeff Eardley January 11, 2021 Mr Woodruff, speed was ok, but should it be “flautist?” A lovely image of that great city which must have looked a lot different in those days. Reply Monty January 11, 2021 Flutist and flautist are equally acceptable, although the former is more commonly used (at least in Britain); and ‘speed’ was not “ok” in that context. ‘he speeds’ or ‘he sped’ . . but not ‘he speed’. Julian D. Woodruff January 11, 2021 To the extent he was either, this guy, with his scraggly beard, thinning hair tied back in a ponytail, and driving his beater of a VW van, was definitely a flutist, not a flautist. Susan Jarvis Bryant January 13, 2021 Cynthia, I love this. The words flow smoothly and beautifully and the sentiment is heart-touchingly lovely. Although written in blank verse, the musicality of the poem doesn’t go unnoticed -I simply adore; “He crafted, in a sawdust-clouded clamor” ~ you can see and hear and smell your father’s creativity in this one alliterative line… and I adore the smell of sawdust. My father was very good at carpentry. He made us a summer house and made my pet guinea pigs cages and runs, and I loved kicking through the fresh sawdust in my winter boots. I also like the way you liken your father’s hidden wonder to that of the modest cardinal’s in the closing stanza… a beautiful read, indeed. Reply Cynthia Erlandson January 13, 2021 Thank you so much, Susan! I’m very glad you liked it, and could identify with it through experiences you can recall with your father. Reply Norma Okun January 16, 2021 Hi Cynthia, I see you became the artist in portraying your father in this lovely poem. Reply Cynthia Erlandson January 17, 2021 Thank you so much, Norma! You are right that it is a portrait; and, since I can’t paint or draw, I’m glad poetry offers us another way to make portraits. Reply Norma Okun January 17, 2021 Yes it is art that makes life immortal. Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.