Wallpapering with my Father

Wallpapering with my Father

 

 

Coming through Ellis Island with all the rest

you made good across the sea, to the New

World of promise; you, the lanky, blue-eyed

immigrant from Nord Holland with the shock

 

of Viking hair – my father’s father, like him

a man of few words, there to become part

of the American Dream that was within reach

because of your saleable skills.

 

That Sunday was quiet with the

heavy, high-pitched whir of locusts

heralding summer in upstate New York – long,

languorous days wasting teenager time

 

under the apple trees. At first I was sulky

when I showed up for the job. My father

had dressed for the occasion in spotless white

as if he were about to go sailing on his yacht.

 

Separating us, seven roles of silkscreened ladies

waving Oriental fans. Our tools, your tools, carefully assembled;

a greying stepladder, the razor-sharp knife, a boar-bristled brush.

Solid like the homeland, built to last like your impossible dream.

 

Unusually impatient, my father barked orders that I

couldn’t fulfil: run, fetch, hold the paper straight.

Could your secrets not be passed on?

My tears spattered in the chlorinated pool.

 

Years later, when you’d already passed on,

I put myself to the test; a tiny kitchen wall

and a complicated, half-drop vertical match.

I preened long-distance. Dad, dreams come true.

3 Comments

  1. thanks Cathy – must admit Jenny helped quite a bit with it – as I’m just now (having got an extension) coming to grips with my poetry assignment . Appreciate your ongoing support!

    Reply

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