25 June 2022

A Fistful of Poems About Father

These poems commemorate fatherhood by recalling childhood stories, bonds made over books and rivers, the onset of illness and the eventual loss of the father.

A fistful of poems for my father
A fistful of poems for my father Getty Images

Gulzar the Village Dog

You told the best stories
Of rivers and trees
Of sand dunes and mounds
Of fertile fields and happy harvests
Of boisterous cows and sneaky barn rats

Your favourite story to tell was of Gulzar the village dog
Of how he drove robbers away
Of how he buoyantly guided the postman through dusty alleys
Of how he watched over sleeping babies
Of how he could sense oncoming storms
How I loved all of Gulzar’s adventures
How I could never have enough of his escapades
How I waited for you to tell me a new one
How every episode had me in splits
How each one has come to live in my mind
Childhood is a forgotten trip or is it really?
At the edge of an imaginary meadow I still run into Gulzar 
He is the same — brave, playful, responsible, intuitive

Together, we chase butterflies through dandelions
Promise in our eyes, sun on our faces, wind at our backs

‘Your Copy of The Old Man and the Sea’
Your copy of The Old Man and the Sea
is faded and yellow
the cover cracked and curled on the edges
your scribbles from years ago remain fresh and sparkling though

you wrote in bright blue ink
over the lines
on the sides
on the top and bottom of pages

to feel the story
to internalize the struggle
to grasp that no matter how profound a loss
someday it would be compensated for in some way
when you had sat scribbling away
did you know that
one day in a place very far away
each scribble of yours
legible and ineligible would
reintroduce me to myself
prod me to throw everything up in the air  
awaken me to a new way of being

Our River

I remember you sitting by the river and reading
handsome like a figure in a Raphael painting
absorbed by the book
forever in love with the river

the very same river that broke its banks every monsoon
flooded our fields, damaged our crops but
nothing could turn your heart from the river
never did you miss a chance to remind me that

it was the promise of the river that 
had drawn our ancestors to its banks
it was the river that had nurtured generations of our people
count the bounties of the river and not its seasonal transgressions you would say

never would I have imagined how deeply I would come to imbibe your words 
invoking them during my encounters with the world 
every passing year reaffirming your belief that goodness was the only beauty and 
to acknowledge that the ultimate truth

I remember you on iridescent mornings when the wind whistles in trees
Kindling long-ago conversations, waking up memories
As I lap them up,  a birdsong chimes across my mind to meander along the river — 
your river, my river, our river of bounties

Mysterious Depths of Oblivion 
When I was little
you took me to see the colourful dancing fountains one evening

dazzling hues sparkled in the air
red,  blue,  yellow, green

I bent over to
touch the rainbow water that

whirled at the foot of the tallest fountain
do fish live here, I asked

you smiled and shook your head
the fountain swayed and twirled

a million stars bursting through the skies to join in the dance as
we began walking back home in the twinkling silence

little did I know then that in the end
that would be all that you’d be left with —

colours smiles and silence
the last time that we met

all your words and memories lay displaced
you were smiling at a distant fountain

prismatic colours reflecting on your face
a gigantic wave of quietude
inching you away further and further into the
mysterious depths of oblivion

On The Third Day
it had become a ritual
every time that I fell sick
I would brave it out

take medicine
drink water
think happy thoughts et al

I would do that for two whole days but
if despite it all
the fever persisted

on the third day
I would call you
I am running a fever I would say

feel sorry for myself

even before you would have had the chance to respond
I would sense
the fever subsiding

my sprit lifting
my mind regaining composure
you had a penchant for

shooing away fever
turning things around
changing outcomes

it’s been several months now
since you have been gone
seasons are gliding away like swift clouds 

I have been fighting to keep fevers at bay 
because last I heard 
there is no provision to call the dead
(Simrita Dhir is a California-based academic and novelist. She is the author of the critically acclaimed novel 'The Rainbow Acres')