We celebrate Father’s Day as many of our countrywomen do, with celebrations of the fathers, husbands, and sons around us who have been and are standing as strong examples, protectors and guides in the lives of their progeny. We also realize that being a child is bittersweet and that in any number of difficult circumstances, being a parent is complicated and sometimes heartbreaking. Today we recognize both the carefree and the courageous, and we thank the brilliant poet Christine Gelineau, who has graced our site many times before, for this portrait and this reminder of how some fathers and some families come to today in memory and with grace. —Ed.

 

Christmas in St. Petersburg, 1966

By Christine Gelineau

I didn’t even know any photographs survived of that trip
but here’s one of those oddly-shaped snaps
Mémère’s Brownie box camera used to take:
the five of us lined up awkwardly, not quite
touching, individually squinting
into the Florida sun.

What strikes me is the sheer bulk
of the four near-grown children.
Centered among us, our father looks
diminished, a forty-seven year old man
who has brought his children home
to his mother’s house for Christmas.

His tender smallness under the stark
blue of that southern sky recalls to me
four months before the photograph was taken:

the five of us waiting
in the church vestibule behind
the sleek mahogany of my mother’s coffin,
so small, so tender
even a sixteen year old had sense enough
to step up and take his hand
for the long walk down the aisle.

 

 

Christine Gelineau is a teacher, rider, horse breeder, poet of nature and courageous surveyor of the interior landscape of womanhood. She is the author of the book-length sequence Appetite for the Divine, Editor’s Choice for Ashland Poetry Press’s McGovern prize; and Remorseless Loyalty, winner of the Richard Snyder Publication Award, also from Ashland.