The lifejacket floats at my feet
in water the boat has taken on.
I’ve asked why before, many times,
Why dad, why can’t I put it on?,
I am a boy who needs the shore nearby,
the men laugh at my fear, one I must please.
So I try to hold the rod the right way,
his way, how he tried to show me.
The men drink from those brown bottles,
I know it’s beer, it seems important to them.
We keep rowing, the oars and my dad,
he is so big, takes me further from the shore.
It’s as if he has something to show me,
but i don’t want to see it, he rows faster.
The sun has no place in his eyes, they hit me
and they hurt, it can’t be the sun.
I see the way it hits my lure,
helps each wave to begin the dream,
but before I enter the gentle glare
the boat stops, my dad speaks, calls me silly.
So in the middle of this lake we rock,
all I wanted was the shore to stay close.
I seek the glare again, its touch,
the fright is gone, the daydream is instant.
There is another lake, long floating shadows,
at the far end a form stands on the water,
I must see more, it isn’t quite a man,
hunched, very slow, stopping to sob.
I am very closenow, a ring is dropped,
we watch it shine, vanish in a look of grief,
we walk away together, back to the glare,
the ringless hand in mine, I am very safe,
but there is a darkness, it steals this daydream,
my dad is standing, a fish gets his smile.
The Password is “Drum”
The hardhat is removed,
momentarily, to tighten
the elastic that holds
his ponytail in place.
Another man watches this,
sad about the baldness
he shares with his father,
who calls guys like that gay.
The father sits in a car
beside his son, looks him over,
proud, unable to say so,
laughs at the still shovels.
Behind them others wait,
many men at a light,
all looking, eyes on the times,
they don’t close, or turn away.
They see, perhaps themselves,
what the present could be,
would be, or should be:
ties being straightened,
babies being walked,
hands being held,
money being counted.
What may make them men
becomes emotion when it’s quiet,
and they drive off
alone on the inside
with the only past they know.
Chad Norman’s poems have appeared for the past thirty-five years in literary publications across Canada, as well as a number of other countries around the world. He hosts and organizes RiverWords: Poetry & Music festival each July. His book, Learning To Settle Down, was published by Black Moss Press (University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada) in 2015, and Selected & New Poems was published in April of 2017 from Mosaic Press (Oakville, Ontario, Canada). His love of walks is endless.