I wrote this poem in 2010 for my dad, who died in 1991.  This picture was taken at his retirement from the railroad in 1980.

Dad's Retirement Cake,1980













Dad would sit at the kitchen table,

Light up a smoke, sip his coffee

Look out the north window and start in…

“The Wrens’re back – gotta put up their houses.

Lotsa Evenin’ Grosbeaks this year.

Orioles are singin’ out behind the g’rage.

Gotta put out more suet for the Nuthatches.

Jeez, them mean Grackles and Jays

Are scarin’ the others away.”


Late afternoons, he’d say,

“Let’s go check out the yard.”

And he’d look, not very hard,

Finding nests all around.

“There’s a mama Robin on her nest

‘bout twelve branches up this pine.  See it?”

I usually didn’t but said I did.

He’d push back branches in the hedges,

Find an acorn-shaped nest of a yellow-green Warbler

He’d mutter and wink, “Amazing – so small.”


Come fall, He’d take me Partridge hunting.

Walk the rock ridges north of town

He’d point out soaring Cooper’s Hawks

Juncos on the ground

And surmise why the Canadian Geese were strangely still around.

He’d spot Bald Eagles high in a dead tree

Marvel and gasp at their high flight.


Then I was older, I had my own yard

With wire-roosted Cardinals, Bluebirds and Wrens.

We talked on the phone one June night

He asked, “You still got them Bluebirds?  They don’t come up north.”

“They’re here, Dad.” I said.

“Well, take care of them Bluebirds”, then he hung up the line.


He died the next day; I had had my last session.

I hear all the birds, dad.

Thanks for the lesson.