Thursday, 14 June 2012

Forgiving Our Fathers

The crack of Father's Day puts me in mind of Sherman Alexie's riff on Forgiving Our Fathers, a poem by Dick Lourie. This is something many of us must do, because, for reasons as complex as the culture itself, fatherhood is a controversial undertaking. Fortunate are those, child or parent, who come through unscathed.

This poem is hauntingly declaimed by nerd shaman Thomas Builds-the-Fire in Smoke Signals, arguably the most undeservedly obscure movie in history. That performance, narrating the heart of a young Cœur d'Alêne man as he dumps the ashes of his own complicated father into his people's holy river, can be savoured in the video below:

Forgiving Our Fathers
(edited by Sherman Alexie from an original text by Dick Lourie)

How do we forgive our fathers? Maybe in a dream.
Do we forgive our fathers for leaving us too often or forever when we were little?
Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage, or making us nervous because there never seemed to be any rage there at all?
Do we forgive our fathers for marrying or not marrying our mothers?
For divorcing or not divorcing our mothers?
And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth or coldness?
Shall we forgive them for pushing or leaning?
For shutting doors?
For speaking through walls, or never speaking, or never being silent?
Do we forgive our fathers in our age or in theirs?
Or in their deaths?
Saying it to them or not saying it?
If we forgive our fathers, what is left?

(The Lourie original is here.)

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