Coniferous Fathers by Michael Kleber-Diggs

Let’s fashion gentle fathers, expressive—holding us

how we wanted to be held before we could ask.

Singing off-key lullabies, written for us—songs

every evening, like possibilities. Fathers who say,

this is how you hold a baby, but never mention

a football. Say nothing in that moment, just bring

us to their chests naturally, without shyness.

Let’s grow fathers from pine, not oak, coniferous

fathers raising us in their shade, fathers soft enough

to bend—fathers who love us like their fathers

couldn’t. Fathers who can talk about menstruation

while playing a game of pepper in the front yard.

No, take baseball out. Let’s discover a new sort—

fathers as varied and vast as the Superior Forest.

Let’s kill off sternness and play down wisdom;

give us fathers of laughter and fathers who cry,

fathers who say Check this out, or I’m scared, or I’m sorry,

or I don’t know. Give us fathers strong enough

to admit they want to be near us; they’ve always

wanted to be near us. Give us fathers desperate

for something different, not Johnny Appleseed,

not even Atticus Finch. No more rolling stones.

No more La-Z-Boy dads reading newspapers in

some other room. Let’s create folklore side-by-side

in a garden singing psalms about abiding—just that,

abiding: being steadfast, present, evergreen, and

ethereal—let’s make the old needles soft enough

for us to rest on, dream on, next to them.

Coniferous Fathers

I heard Michael Klebber-Diggs read this poem (online of course) and was smitten. You may or may not have had a father such as he describes but I’ll bet you know someone in your life to whom you could give this poem, a gentle, expressive father, or soon-to-be father. I know I do.

There are so many ways he describes how such a father could be: holding us / how we wanted to be held before we could ask – my eyes fill as I imagine this. So many ways: holding us to their chests naturally, without shyness; fathers who love us like their fathers / couldn’t – my heart stops. He wants fathers grown from pine, not oak, coniferous fathers – what a concept! Fathers with enough softness to bend, fathers of laughter and fathers who cry; fathers strong enough / to admit they want to be near us. What he wants for us is No more Lazy-Boy dads reading newspapers in / some other room, that iconic image from an older time.

What I hear in this poem, besides the longing for soft, coniferous fathers, is the longing of the fathers themselves who want to be this way in a world that discourages such tenderness as un-masculine. What if fathers were, for themselves and for their children, steadfast, present, evergreen, and ethereal? Oh yes, let’s make the old needles soft enough / for us to rest on, dream on, next to them. May you have the gift of knowing a coniferous father.

10 thoughts on “Coniferous Fathers by Michael Kleber-Diggs

  1. This brought on an “I’m not crying, you’re crying moment for me.” What a tender and glorious poem. I am so grateful for your ministry of sharing poetry. I am working on a book again, and i have saved several of these wise offerings for possible inclusion. ❤

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  2. Oh Jan, thank-you again. I whispered the poem because I’m not alone in this room, and somehow whispering felt right. And so did the lump and the ache that arrived with this line: “Give us fathers strong enough to admit they want to be near us/they’ve always wanted to be near us.” My father’s been gone 14 years but recently I’ve been sending out an invitation for him to come nearer…

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