Remembering my father —Four poems

James Thomas Culleny 1918-1980

1. The Tongues of His Black Boots Say

as my father sleeps the world goes on
his work boots are by the door
he left them there unlaced
the right run down at the heel
the left’s toe scuffed
his blue shirt hangs on a hook
wrinkled below the belt line
where every morning
its tails were tucked

there’s no forgiveness in pasts
just now and here, defeat
is the hardest epiphany
the tongues of his
black boots say

2. Again

My father at the kitchen table
in a rare expression of mystery
said, I think life is a cycle
but he was not a mystical man to me,

nose to the grindstone he ground
day after day, pressed
by incessant work, bound
to contingencies
like Sisyphus to his stone
linearly, but uphill
in his black boots and socks
his blue shirt and pants
cinched with a black belt,
sometimes a fedora,
often a smile through
cigarette-clinched lips,
he trucked on (unbeknownst to me,
and despite his flat trajectory)
mulling over vicissitudes,
contemplating repetitions,
weighing the properties of circles,
as does any common philosopher
hoping to unravel the hiddeness
under blood and bone,
coming to the conclusion
that to begin again
was the only thing that made sense
to him

3. Now I Know What He Meant

—I’ll have that done in no time, my father would say
I’m in the midst of a moon
(as the Lenape called  them)
dead center. It’s Thursday
dead center, too, of the week
I’m at the pinpoint of noon poised
precisely at the day’s fulcrum
just thirty seconds into the minute
at point five Oh! of that second
and a breeze blows
across my cheek
which the sun warms
in no time

4. Hummingbird Acetylene

The  turquoise flame of a hummingbird’s head
is a blazing torch of acetylene

burning, as when my father put a welding tip to steel
joining parts of his world with the bluegreen flame
he held between
Hummingbird 01

This hummingbird burns in afternoon light
at the mouth of a flower in god’s machine
jabbing her tip at a perfect hour
joining his flame to mine
in a darting iridescent gleam

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