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On the Anniversary of My Father’s Death

These rainy mornings have a subtle salt
To them that even in the city can
Bring back the pier, its rugged paint-chipped span
Still wet with early rain, where by default
(Too risky for the boat) our soft assault
Was launched: the war of fishes versus man,
A battle waged for hearth and frying pan
Where every tightening of the line exalts.
And truth be told, I didn’t much like fish
(Except for fish sticks, very lower-class)
And standing on the pier was pretty cold.
But rainy mornings I can’t help but wish
To smell the lake as I hold out my pole
And watch my dad unhook a small-mouthed bass.

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Jeffrey Essmann is an essayist and poet living in New York. His poetry has appeared in numerous magazines and literary journals, among them Agape Review, America Magazine, Dappled Things, the St. Austin Review, U.S. Catholic, Grand Little Things, Heart of Flesh Literary Journal, and various venues of the Benedictine monastery with which he is an oblate. He is editor of the Catholic Poetry Room page on the Integrated Catholic Life website.


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6 Responses

  1. Michael Pietrack

    Fishing with one’s father, very nostalgic.

    I liked how you used the senses in this poem. I could smell it and see it, but most of feel it.

    Reply
  2. Roy E. Peterson

    Poignant memory to which those of us who have lost our father can all relate. I agree with Michael that the use of senses admirably permeates the poem.

    Reply
  3. Cheryl Corey

    My favorite part: “the war of fishes versus man, A battle waged for hearth and frying pan”. Speaking as someone who once dabbled in fishing and only managed to land a sunfish, I can appreciate the battle. Details such as “the pier, its rugged paint-chipped span — Still wet with early rain” and “” tightening of the line” add effective imagery.

    Reply
  4. Paul Freeman

    Your poem brought back memories of my own father from similar scenarios.

    My favourite line: ‘Where every tightening of the line exalts.’

    Thanks for the read Jeffrey.

    Reply
  5. Anna J. Arredondo

    Jeffrey,

    I also found the sensory images in your poem very effective.

    I can relate to the experience of one small trigger (here the subtle salt of the rainy morning) transporting me suddenly and vividly to another time and place, where memory fills in all the other details. This is the poetry of life, and you have captured it beautifully and poignantly in your sonnet.

    Lastly, in the final sestet, you demonstrate skillfully how a maybe less-than-pleasant experience can be transformed by loss into a wistful and fond memory.

    Reply

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