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My Father’s Hope Chest

When I was a child, my father had
an old cigar box full of things that were
meaningful to him: a broken rosary
made of cherry wood, a swiss army knife,
an old silver cap from one of his teeth,
and two baby food jars full of metal war
pennies, rusted green with age. He was
born when resources were rationed,
when pretty ladies drew lines up their calves
in eyeliner pencil, and copper was reserved
for artillery. Because such details intrigue me
—just what will survive us to define us—
I keep an invisible box of memories
to draw upon. For my father, I have
the sound of his heartbreak the day
his father died. A deep moan like one
the earth must make when the ground splits
open, releasing air from its lava center
like an ancient sigh. For six months
after grandpa’s death, my father smoked
his father’s pipe, and he laughed
when I asked why he smoked it,
saying he didn’t really know. Even if
smoking was part of what killed his father,
my father had to know what it was
he was saying goodbye to,
if not to whom. –My Dad’s
words were a mystery to me then
but I understand them now
that he is gone, just as I share
the heartbreak of his tears
at the loss of his father.

Rita Anderson is an internationally-published & and award-winning writer with two graduate degrees in creative writing. She was Poetry Editor of Ellipsis (University of New Orleans), and both of her poetry books: The Entropy of Rocketman (Finishing Line Press) and Watched Pots (A Lovesong to Motherhood) have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her work has appeared in almost 100 literary publications, and Rita won the Houston Poetry Festival, the Gerreighty Prize, the Robert F. Gibbons Poetry Award, the Cheyney Award, and an award from the Academy of American Poets. Contact Rita at her website.

14 comment on “My Father’s Hope Chest

  • Steve Anderson
    June 19, 2021 | 5:53 pm

    What a beautiful and touching story. I too lost my father and have my box of memories. Thank you for sharing this story with me and the world.

    • Rita Anderson
      June 19, 2021 | 6:03 pm

      Thank you for reading and responding! I am glad this poem resonated with you.

  • Theresa Cyrus
    June 19, 2021 | 6:16 pm

    That is so incredibly beautiful and made me cry! What a touching tribute to such an amazing man!! Dad is beaming with pride

    • Rita Anderson
      June 19, 2021 | 6:32 pm

      Thank you so much for letting me know; tomorrow will be a hard day full of loving remembrances.

  • Kathleen Andress
    June 19, 2021 | 7:09 pm

    Beautiful tribute to Dad! What resonates with me is the statement “…just what will survive us to define us” and in Dad’s case it’s his silly sense of humor, his unconditional love for and acceptance of all of us, and his loyalty to family. Beautiful tribute to a well loved and sorely missed man. Brava, Rita, Brava!

    • Rita Anderson
      June 19, 2021 | 7:15 pm

      Hahaha, it really is, and his sense of humor is a legacy. Thank you for responding and I’m so happy that it touched yr heart ❤.

  • Kay Isle
    June 19, 2021 | 8:16 pm

    A sweet memory of your dad as he relived childhood memories upon the loss of his dad. May your memory of his laughter as he smoked the pipe chase away your tears.

    • Rita Anderson
      June 19, 2021 | 8:34 pm

      What encouraging words! I appreciate them–thanks for reading and yr sweet response.

  • Max
    June 19, 2021 | 9:48 pm

    Lovely and poignant. A bittersweet, painful, and wise look back. Thank you for sharing!

    • Rita Anderson
      June 19, 2021 | 9:57 pm

      Thank you. And I so appreciate the reach out! Happy Father’s Day.

  • Cindy Janes
    June 20, 2021 | 1:10 pm

    Beautifully written. I can see Dad doing exactly what you wrote. He is terribly missed every day

    • Rita Anderson
      June 20, 2021 | 1:13 pm

      He is missed. Thank you.

  • Karuna
    June 28, 2021 | 11:29 pm

    Beautifully crafted! Thank you for this poem.

  • Rita Anderson
    June 28, 2021 | 11:53 pm

    Thank you… I so appreciate that my poem touched you. And that you took the time to let me know.

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