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June 30, 2012

Our Fathers' Many Legacies

Do you ever feel that Father's Day simply does not receive the same attention that Mother's Day does? I often do. Even in the Bible story about the birth of Jesus, as it is told to children in Sunday schools around the world, I think Joseph is a person we tend to gloss over. I don't know the number, but I'm willing to guess that there are many more Madonna and Child paintings than there are Joseph and Child paintings in the world. Fathers are important, though, as we well know. They may not put their arms around us as easily or as often as a mother does, yet in a real sense, they can be the rock beneath our feet, the shelter over our heads and hearts. I received enough great submissions about fathers that it wasn't possible to get them all done by Father's Day, so you'll start to see them posted here in July, beginning with this evocative poem by Liz Davies about her hero--her father.

My  Father  Walking

by Liz Davies
I remember my father walking, walking,
Walking sandy bushveldt paths for miles,
Feet shifting in his soft, worn boots,
Brown arms swinging from wide shoulders,
Long legs moving his body along.
He learned this walk as a farm boy,
Walking tireless and on for miles
Searching thickets and rocks for wayward beasts
In his loose loping kind of style. In old photos
He looks from under his helmet with deepset eyes;
They came in handy, those fifty mile stares,
As he scanned horizons the war years away
In the desert sun, while the twenty-five-pounders
Roared, spat fire, and shook him to the bone,
Until history overtook him and roped him
Into years in a prison camp, wasted years
Of hard forced labour, and cruel cold.
He told us, little brother and me, of his war
In a jovial voice that made light of it all,
Like an action movie with sound effects,
But it was in dead earnest. He came home
With legs pitted by shrapnel, showed us the scars
Down hollowed calves; lungs fretted with cold, he said,
Skin stretched pale over ribs, teeth loose and bad,
Hearing gone and face sunk in. And safe at home
He slept a while, ate softly, remembered slow,
Till one day he woke strong, got up and walked again.


Poem, copyright Liz Davies, all rights reserved. Previously published in the anthology Heroes by Ransome.  
 Liz Davies' father went from Botswana to South Africa to join the armed forces. 
He died in 1974.

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