I hope you know I’m not serious

when I get mad and ask you to pay

room and board, father said. I’m only saying

that to exert my power. Once it’s exerted,

I have no inclination to make it come true.

You’ve already paid me by exclaiming that I’m

the best father in the world. That’s what

your Father Day’s card said. I’m not

telling you anything new. I’m just

quoting what the card said. Unless

you've committed the unpardonable sin

of picking out a card without reading it.

I take what the card says very seriously,

even though it rhymes. I like rhyme.

Otherwise, all my cards would be bland.

Hal Sirowitz is the former poet laureate of Queens, New York. He's the author of 4 collections of poetry. One of them, 'Mother said' was translated into 9 languages. He has been published in Tin House, Hanging Loose, The Bellevue Review, etc.

The poem was written two days before it was accepted. I get up very early, between four and five am. The first thing I do is turn on my laptop and write. At four in the morning I feel closer to my unconscious. My mind is not yet occupied by the worries of the day. I have a chronic disease, Parkinson's, like the actor, Michael J. Fox. I've had it for sixteen years.

The inspiration for the poem comes from a memory. When I was much younger, my father forgot his wedding anniversary. My mother gave him hell. The next day there was a smile on his face. He took me secretly to his car, opened the trunk, and showed me anniversary, valentine, birthday and Mother's Day cards he had purchased by the handful. He had about twelve, including some blank cards, which could be used for any occasion. Whenever there was a special holiday, he'd head to his trunk.

I changed the ending somewhat. I had a line in which I said language has enough restraints. Who needs rhyme? I took that out because I didn't want the poem to be an attack on formal poetry. I wanted it to stay true to my father's character. I compose most of my poems on the computer; because of my Parkinson's when I write I have micrographia, my handwriting becomes so small that I'm unable to read it. 


Copyright 2009