What My Father Taught Me


He taught me loneliness
Spare as an aspen in winter

He taught me yearning
Raw as a hot-skinned pepper

He taught me unworthiness
Invisible as a bag-laden beggar

He taught me the quest
Compelled like a dog on the trail of a rabbit


In one of our four weekends together,
he taught me how to tap my wrist to distribute salt
balanced in a tiny spoon dipped in a blue-glass salt cellar,
something strange to me, coming
from a family that used shakers.

Once I taught him a nifty way to tie a fly
and he practiced the intricate turns until
he had it down. It was an odd trick I learned in Field and Stream,
a distraction on my flight to see him,
odder still since I had never fly fished.


Then he died and taught me the difference
between real and make-believe,
the visible and the invisible,
the way a blue deer steps out and slips back
through the shadow of night-green cedar.