Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My Father's Many Funerals

(I'm still closed until the second, but today marks 20 years since my father died of lung cancer. This is an older poem, but is the only one I've ever written about him)

My father,
Superintendent turned gardener
in his retirement,
attended nearly every funeral
over his lifetime of losses in our
small southern town

'We must pay our respects,'
as bulletin in hand,
he sang farewell hymns
passed down from generations
of farewells chainlinked before us.

At age 83 he joined them,
the dry, warm seeds
for that spring's planting,

A thumbnail of mourners,
I told myself.
No gathering suitable for
final respects he cradled
as diamonds in value.

The limo snailed up the steep hill
towards that tiny brick church
where my father
had taught Sunday School,
served as Elder,
taken communion,
bowed head in prayer.
Front pew
Same seat every Sunday.

Edging over the rise.
the limo offered first
steeple, spires.......car roofs.
Hundreds of car roofs.
A garden of color spilling
from parking lot into field.
Standing room only.

Respect, my father's winter harvest.
Our town's final gift.

Later, at my parents' home, I tucked
my father's seeds into pocket
to carry to my own home
for next season's planting.

I feel sure that he knew.

Pris Campbell

In memory of my father..you were the best!

Published inThe Dead Mule, An Anthology of Southern Literature,
Fall, 2002

(Thank you!!)


Pat Paulk said...

Beautiful memorial Pris. Time never washes away the longing. Hope your Holiday was good.

Pris said...

Thanks, Pat. It was quiet, the way I wanted it to be. Hope yours went well.

tom said...


new year a comin'

Pris said...

hi tom
thanks...yes, too soon 2007 will be upon us.

Helen Losse said...

Oh Pris. That's so touching. And then, I saw that the Mule first published it. That's Valerie. Makes me look forward to your submission for the spring issue even more. YES!

Pris said...

Thanks, Helen,
Yes, The Mule published quite a few of my poems. I'm glad the journal is coming back. I've opened a folder on my hard drive I can use as a holding place to sort out some submissions I hope will work with the spring issue.


Anonymous said...

This is truly moving. I can relate to your words in my own way. My dad planted his crops the year he died, they had just reached harvesting point and we picked them in his absence.

Pris said...

It's nice that you had that part of him left behind. We had things in the freezer from my father's previous garden. I remember on a later visit when mother pulled out what was the last frozen vegetable. We hated to eat it and see that last part of his garden go.

Brian Campbell said...

A very heartfelt poem - touching, evocative. I enjoyed it.

Pris said...

Thanks, Brian.

Ellen M Johns said...

No other poem need ever be written. This stands alone, tall and proud.

Pris said...

You're very kind, Ellen.

RachelChisholm2006 said...

As ever Pris, your words paint a picture of life and living. Your father was obviously a much-loved man not only loved by you, but by so many other people. The sight of so many cars must have been such an emotional one.
Your words are a very fitting tribute to him.