Voices

March 04, 2007|By Ted Kooser

Here the Maine poet Wesley McNair offers us a vivid description of a man who has lived beyond himself. I'd guess you won't easily forget this sad old man in his apron with his tray of cheese.

- Ted Kooser

At the end of my stepfather's life

when his anger was gone,

and the saplings of his failed

nursery had grown into trees,

my newly feminist mother had him

in the kitchen to pay for all

those years he only did the carving.

"You know where that is"

she would say as he looked

for a knife to cut the cheese

and a tray to serve it with,

his apron wide as a dress

above his workboots, confused

as a girl. He is the one I think of now,

lifting the tray for my family,

the guests, until at last he comes

to me. And I, no less confused,

look down from his hurt eyes as if

there were nothing between us

except an arrangement of cheese,

and not this bafflement, these

almost tender hands that once

swung hammers and drove machines

and insisted that I learn to be a man.

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