My Father’s Grief by Pamela Porter

I want to take away my father’s grief.

I want to unravel the thread of it
from his shirts.  I want to scrub
the dirt-black seams of it
from his fingernails.

I want to sweep it
from the doorways of his house,
wash it from the walls and hinges
           and window wells.

I want to capture the moth of his guilt
that has crawled inside his ear
and whispers its dusty word,
the shudder of its wings
           sibilant as shame.
I want to reach in and take it in my fist.

I want to quiet the river of sorrow
that gurgles its weary dirge
beneath his bed, his kitchen table.
.             I will ask the willow
to quit her weeping.
I will point toward the sky, say,
See the moon ripening – there –
                        in your branches.
Be now content.

I will call the little birds
to bring the lilt of their gossip
into the yard.
           I will call the crows
to carry the bonehouse of his sadness
in their beaks, open their wild
           blue-black wings
and drop it into the sea.

I will place the stones of the dead
beside the back fence
and I will sing them to sleep.
           It is enough now,
I will sing.  Enough.

Go to sleep you dead.
Leave my father to his life.

I will plant a tree whose blossoms
will burst and scatter
over the wet
.                         black earth,
and I will call each petal in turn
joy, light, peace,
until I have named them all,

until my father’s grief is consumed
          as though by fire,
and I will strew the ash of it
over the sea.


Copyright © Pamela Porter. Winner of the 2010 Vallum Award for Poetry and originally published in Vallum (8:1 “Futures”).


Pamela Porter’s work has won more than a dozen provincial, national and international awards, including the Governor General’s Award for her novel in verse, The Crazy Man, and the Vallum Poem of the Year Prize. Her poetry been shortlisted for the Pat Lowther and Raymond Souster Awards, as well as the CBC/Canada Writes prize. Her tenth poetry collection, Likely Stories, is forthcoming this fall from Ronsdale Press. Pamela lives near Sidney, BC with her family and a menagerie of rescued horses, dogs, and cats.

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Vallum: Contemporary Poetry is a Montreal-based literary magazine. Founded in 2000, the biannual magazine publishes poetry, art, reviews, essays, and interviews by writers and artists from around the world. Our magazine and contributors have won some of literature’s highest honours, including Pushcart Prizes, the Governor General’s Award, National Magazine Awards, and more.

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