RSS Feeds

Here you will find the writings of the poet Theodore Waterfield

The Coat

My brother asked me
if I wanted our father’s coat.
Surprised, I said,
Yes!
Where had it hidden all these years?
Almost four decades,
and now I was asked,
because of renovations in an attic,
did I want the garment
that held my father’s warmth?
That visited,
took walks,
was laid across his bed
with his scent,
the rough texture of wool,
like his unshaven face
in the morning.

Then several weeks later
my brother returned
and entering the door
presented the coat
with the flourish of a magician
conjuring magic.
At once
memories flooded my mind of
a slender, black-haired youth,
with a Clark Gable mustache,
that women found attractive,
holding the propeller of a biplane.
Eagles flying over Cedar Point.
My father in primitive airplanes,
jettisoned over Sandusky Bay.
The ambient odor of algae and fish.
The damp touch of morning
at sunrise
as we pulled fish from the water.
The whimsy of his poetry
taking root in me
like the drizzle of stars
turning on at twilight.
My father turned avatar
for me.
A little moon
in the embrace of a planet.

I took the coat,
so neat it looked new,
in spite of repairs
that marked its history.
It felt so heavy!
As if time had accumulated
in its fabric.
Was it the weight of the huge soul
in my father?
Was it the weight of life itself?
The coming and going of hours,
each one a new horizon.
I could never see my father
as in life, so much as
a force coming into it.
A tree with sun in its branches.

He had the strength of two men.
A courage that was palpable,
an adventurous spirit.
He was of those who flew
the first airplanes,
and survived two crashes.
Was offered the first mail route
to Havana from the United States.
He was also a man trusted
and liked.
Who never cursed.
Spoke well of others,
a man of empathy and tolerance
and admired charitable people.

The man who wore the coat
was a singer of old songs.
A guitarist who played his Gibson
as if the instrument
were a part of his soul.
Was an artist
who painted pictures of sail,
and knew all the cords and knots
of the ships he rendered
on canvas.
As a boy cut great blocks of ice
on Sandusky Bay for the city’s
ice houses,
and hired out to yachts as a crewman
to be with the sails he loved.

A man who endured tragedies
he kept to himself,
except for the windows and doors
of time, let open after his death,
secrets of grief and despair.
A father killed when he was ten.
Who he spoke of with enormous love.
The suicide of a girl he loved
and who loved him.

He seldom displayed anger.
Innately kind he kept his temper
but lightning can occur
in a calm sky, well before
a storm. When aroused
by abuse of friends and loved ones,
he answered only to angels.
When his son, and our brother,
was killed in the horrific
blood letting of the Battle of the Bulge
during World War II,
a Nazi sympathizer made
an unguarded remark in his earshot
that our brother’s death proved
who was better.
Our father then baptized every bone
in the fool’s body,
and advised him during recovery
in the hospital,
to become invisible,
as long as he wished to live.
My father understood and respected
a higher power in the defense of
the helpless and loved.

What is a coat?
Talisman or nocturne.
Voices heard in the night.
A knock on the door of the soul.
What do I hear in a background
of silence?
My father’s calming voice
as he put a cool towel on my forehead
when I had flu and was burning up.
Who listened with encouragement
when I battled the vicissitudes of youth.

The dimensions of life are complex.
Those my father possessed
were rare and romantic.
His eyes looking up from a cup
of tea loving and haunted.
My life was embraced
by a man who seemed to have
many lives inside him.
He had a strange polarity.
No true north or south.
No magnus opus.
A life that seemed meant
for someplace else.
A walk into the distance
with a coat on that may disappear
from my closet.

Comments are closed.