My father reflected in a table

The varnished luster has lasted all these years
in a pair of tables reflecting my father’s craft.

Before he was a knickerbockered Chicago boy
playing kick-the-can in the street, the tree
towered high in the fresh mountain air
of my grandfather’s dreams. As they packed up
and moved to a Colorado farm,
it sheltered birds and shaded the forest floor.

Now a man, but with no war to fight,
my father got up in cold dawn to crouch
in a frozen field or sit with baited hook
by a rustling stream, inhaling the fresh air
in silence, waiting for his chance.

Someone cut that tree into boards
as he enlisted, missed his bid
for bakers’ school, learned airplane repair,
then married my mother. The boards seasoned
while he worked in a gas station, struggled
through the math to be an engineer,
and finally decided to teach instead.

Now he hunted for four, bringing home
trout and pheasant, rabbit and venison
he cleaned and prepared for cooking
as the wood waited to become something.

One day, alone in a quiet workshop, undisturbed
by tobacco-chewing students and irate parents,
he measured the boards twice. With sharpened tools,
he cut perfect, straight lines. Planing, sanding
with gentle hands, smoothing wood to satin,
he breathed the scent of the mountains,
in the same silence, with the same sharp focus.

I imagine him happy then, angling
the table’s legs with a fisherman’s patience
and drilling the dowel holes carefully,
like tying a fly. Precisely as he cast his line,
he mitered the drawer face and fitted it in place
like pieces of a broken dream.

While he divorced, traveled, married
and remarried, the pair of tables stayed mated.
Someday, their ashes or dust will join the earth
and all of us, but for now, they reflect the man
I think my father wanted to be.


This description of an end table and telephone table was inspired by OctPoWriMo and dVerse.


  1. This is a detailed, lovingly written tribute to your father. I enjoyed the details in the biographical stanzas, of your father and the boards, and your close observation of your father, the craftsman, at work. I especially love the lines:
    ‘he breathed the scent of the mountains,
    in the same silence, with the same sharp focus’.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love how you narrated this story and profile through the purview of a table — the material object provides a depth to the characteristic traits of the person thus portrayed.
    I too liked these lines: “he breathed the scent of the mountains,/in the same silence, with the same sharp focus.”

    Liked by 1 person

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