Monday, 16 January 2012

A Poem For My Father

I've been asked a few times recently about this poem that I wrote for my late father James Macken SC. I hadn't ever thought about posting it, and then listening to a song written by my friends in the band 'The Evora' recently made me think about it, and so I decided I would. I was then going to wait and post it on his anniversary on the 13th of March later this year, but sometimes things just hit you and you want to put things out there I guess.

This poem was written for my dad when he died of a brain tumour almost 5 years ago, and the girls at have been, what I can only describe as incredibly sweet and insightful by raising money for my birthday for a brain cancer foundation charity.

The poem has an odd cadence, in that the lines should run into each other, and this song doesn't exactly fit the rhythm, but it's a beautiful song by some very talented musicians. I find that grief comes in different waves, and people deal with it differently, but sometimes hearing a song or reading about somebody else's experiences can help. I recently read a story, in GQ of all things, which won their non fiction award, about a woman who's husband died in Iraq and it was very moving and made me think of my own father. But the beauty of her story was that he wrote her a letter before he died, in the event that he might, and in it he told her to go and achieve and attempt all the things she should and to not wallow in sadness but to embrace life and to cherish their memories, and that's a very important message.

Here is the poem, written for my father when he died:

Verse One

His slender hands pluck the dirt with measured strength
tossing bedraggled fragments to scatter in the wind around
Streaming fore and aft his face respectful, ready to relent
its eager course that harries wide-reaching under natures bounds.
Courteously acknowledging every healthily earned crevice and crease
with barely disguised admiration eclipsed in gentle sound
aware the same that bore him oceans across, seeking release
to threaten and consume with playful violence yet halted down
to its knees, at bay, with a tactful dexterity subdued
by his knowledge of its inner secrets carefully wrought
into an aura of calmness, a confidence daily renewed
by his own self belief, a trait that cannot be taught.
Peppered by a roaring anger, with strength in itself to blow
him across the Irish Sea with its power, but carefully caught
softened and moulded by the only cherished voice that knows
how to keep, soothe, temper and tame him, that only sought
to harness his talent of abundance and shape and caress 
into a creative intelligence, of passionate defence
the map that guided him to unlimited heights of success
financial and emotional, but never at anothers expense
His lucky charm, his rock, his shelter, his soul,
the woman that kept him, for she made him whole.

Verse Two

'Red Sky in the Night'  was his ever favourite phrase
and his eyes would sparkle in delight, life always amazed
Laughter burrows his skin in humour, at his own behest
met with a ferociously witty yet carefully measured riposte
A game to play along with, to challenge but never to best
as there was never a sole winner and nobody lost(e)
for that was the beauty, this awe in his presence
at a vast riveria of information spanning ages of time
a sea of words printed and spoken, always with reverence
drama, newsworthy, novel, fable, linguistic and rhyme
moulded and fleshed by intellectual pursuit of perfection
encouraged by diligent competition and masterful memory of lines
the courtroom his playhouse, the case his canvas, subsection
stroking in patterns victorious, yet never absent nor behind
a humanist, present, unselfish and always humble
observant and confident but cased in a tight circle of friends
loyal and caring, would never let go if you stumbled
charismatically woven from pillars of steel that would bend
around a penetrable soul for protection, to ease any heartache
with voice trembling like thunder in a maelstorm to mend,
 assist and just be there, his self beyond any re-make
for he was a true shepard, and he was there to us, always to tend.

And this is the song by the Evora, on youtube, which I think helps with the tone of the poem. Or if not, is just a beautiful song in any case....

Much love to you all and to those who have lost and are hurt I hope that you have beautiful memories always......


  1. Absolutely beautiful and touching. Any complimentary words sound flat and unworthy of this piece :)

  2. I didn't know your father died of brain cancer (I didn't even know he died - and I think I don't know when your birthday is either), but I guess that's normal since I can't say I know you, do I?

    This poem is incredible and touching and it has this power that makes want to just read the words in my head without really caring for what they mean because the sound of it all is carrying even more than the simple meaning of the words put together. I'll need to read the poem several times - I want to. But this is a thing that happens to me not that often, to have a poem take me before I even get the chance to understand the words. (Reminds me in a completely inexplicable way of one of my favorite poems in English, Journey To The Place Of Ghosts by Jay Wright.)

    I'm both at loss for words and could write for hours about this. Thank you.

  3. Such a gorgeous poem. I love the beautiful imagery I get as I read it, and the cadence that comes across through it.

    Thank you for sharing this - I'm sorry to hear about your dad, but (if it helps) I know that he would be proud of you.

  4. That is incredibly beautiful and powerful. I only have words to express something which goes way beyond them. ((hugs)) will have to do, and maybe a couple tears because this is all I can share & shouldn't want to do more. Except my father died 9 years ago and I couldn't write anything about it. I didn't journal or write anything then. I admire your courage in writing this and posting it for us.

  5. Very moving. The love and respect that you had and still have for your father is very moving and touching. The song you have linked is beautiful and very emotional. I think I need to go call my folks now. Gonna go and appreciate what I have. Thank you.

  6. Your love for your father is obviously profound. Thank you for having the courage to share such an intimate portrait of him.



  7. "...a confidence daily renewed
    by his own self belief, a trait that cannot be taught."

    No, but it can be inherited, which you've done in spades.

    You, Eoin Macken, are a fascinating man with balls of steel.

  8. There is something very biblical about the last phrase "for he was a true shepard, and he was there to us, always to tend" which I love =)
    Reading this reminded me of a poem I wrote 20 years ago when my dad died and although it was nothing like the ode you made (it will never see the light of day as it was more of a guilty lament about trying to be a good daughter despite resentment over my knowledge of his fallibility as a man) I could relate. There's something very cathartic about the process and I thank you for reminding me of all that was good about my own dad as well.

  9. I can see the video for this; the song playing to the story of your dad. One of those scenes where the camera starts facing out to a red sky sea at dusk before sweeping on to a cliff, focusing on a young man standing up from a kneel [was he picking up a rock, a flower?] The camera goes panoramic around the man as he rises, a consistent series of full circles panning him as he gives what he's taken from the dirt to the love of his life, his wife.

    As the camera continues circling, through a series of closeups that lead to each new scene we see them gently age, first circling around a happy home scene with their children in the yard, then fade to a community gathering [a fair, a festival] with plenty of friends and laughter fading circling to a man older still as the camera circles around his life in the courtroom with the song [poem] ending to a fade back at home and the man, still smiling, with his grown family, his friends, his community, his wife.

    [I have no idea if that would work with the actual words of the song since I kinda tuned them out as I read the second time to the music. I dream in colors, and this is the image that circled me struck me with your words. ]

  10. Beautifully written sir. Thank you so much for sharing your precious memories of your father with us. It's an honor.

  11. A beautiful poem, as I stated on Twitter. I can imagine your father was a wonderful man, devoted to his work and his family. I too, know the painful loss of a loved one, and to watch them slowly fade away. I thought of my Grandpa, who's been dead ten years when I read this. I know you can't respond to each and every person, but I just wanted to let you know the poem made me want to go reread a poem I wrote after he died. He kind of passed his flair for writing onto me when he died.

  12. That was beautiful Eoin, thank you for sharing it with us. I have a great big lump in my throat right now, it made me think of all the people I've lost, but also made me realise that I'm not at all close to my parents. Physically yes, emotionally not at all, and I feel terrible about it and hope that my daughter never feels that way about me. In fact I'm going to grab her right now and give her a massive cuddle.


  13. You are right, this is definitely something different (cf your tweet). Another tone. Surprisingly, a soothing one.

    Ruptured aneurysm. Two words that mean hell to me. My Dad couldn't fight this a few years ago. The enemy was too strong.

    Then there was nothing left but pain. I was "pain"...It still hurts.

    I wish I had you talent to express the love that I felt (and that I still feel) for my Dad and to let off some steam at the same time. Surely, it would have helped me through this. Words are so powerful and writing such a great healer.

    Thank you so much for you poem. You cannot even imagine how "soul soothing" it is to me.


  14. Such a beautiful poem, so moving. Stay strong Eoin!

  15. Your father lives in your heart and your memory, I never known mine, but I loved my grand father like a father, he died 2 years ago, he had cancer ... It was the most difficult day of my life.

    Your poem is really beautiful Eoin. Thanks for share this part of you.

  16. Any words would be insufficient to describe this poem and the plethora of emotions it brings with it.. So I'll just say that it's sensitively beautiful and soul-touching..

  17. That's a beautiful poem Eoin, thank you for sharing.


  18. Very beautiful and touching&emotional poem! I really like it! Thanks for sharing it!
    It made me think about my grandma, she is still alive, but she suffers from the disease which changed her personality completely. She used to be very wise&hardworking woman and now for example she doesn't recognize us or isn't able to say what she wants. Despite all those facts, she almost always smiles and encourages&supports us all. She lives with us and seems to be happy. At least I hope so. I never forget about the things she told me, she taught me... She helped me in hardest situation of my life...
    Every illness is hard&horrible. No doubt about that! However I also think,that disease of someone beloved can make us realize things, we would else never notice... - things about ourselves, things about relationship to that person and many others....
    Thank you! :)

  19. Its incredibly strong and humble to post something so personal. A lovely tribute in the act of posting, not just writing. I wouldn't want to comment on something so intimate other than to say it has given me a sense of a man full of natural power and another man struggling to say everything that needed to be said.

  20. That's truly inspiring to me to see someone brave enough to post something that personal on a blog for all to see. I'm not going to say I understand the pain you must be feeling because I haven't lost a loved one yet, that I can remember and even if I did it would be so wrong to. You have a natural talent to word the before unwordable and this is an incredible example of that. Its beautiful and inspiring to another poet. Thank You.

  21. Very brave to post such a personal piece of writing. I have to say it made me cry only wish I could write half as well as you. Posted below is something I wrote 4 days before I lost my Granddad very different style to yours but hope you like it.

    An Oak Tree from an Acorn Grows
    November 5th 2006

    For Bob Eldridge written by Kerry-Anne Eldridge
    Grandparents are like trees; their thick canopies shield you from the elements
    Their roots anchor you to the ground.
    Guide you.
    My Granddad was like an oak tree, strong and proud and safe. He stood solid through the seasons towering above Birch, Chestnut and Sycamore.

    In spring large green leaves would protect growing acorns from harsh sunlight nurturing their growth watching their development. Flowers would begin to grow at his feet; poppies for remembrance and Carnations for lost love.
    By summer his branches stretched high allowing its fruit to mature but ever guarding ever protective.
    Autumn comes too soon his great hands gnarled by the elements and years of toil. Squirrels run up and down his trunk and he delights at their tiny paws tickling his bark. He houses them nestles then close to his knotty heart where they are content to listen in rapture to the strong beating of his heart.
    Winter his final season. The squirrels store their nuts in old cracks and crevice. In his wisdom the oak chastises them: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures where moth and rust destroy…”
    (Matthew 6:19)
    A lone Robin sings a query but goes unanswered. The great hulking heart grows tired and longs to be where he is loved the best. Decay sets in he turns grey and ashen all is silent an acorn falls.

  22. This was lovely. Thanks so much for sharing it.

    How fortunate you are to have had time to appreciate all of his nuances in such a way that could be reminisced upon with such fondness. You were truly blessed.

  23. What can I say, Eoin? To say I like it, would not do my emotions justice – nor your words and the plethora of emotions peeking from behind them. I feel much moved by this lovely and honest tribute to your father, and your words were drawing pictures in my mind as I read the poem. I believe, when we lose someone dear (and I have to admit, I have buried quite a few people very close to my heart, my parents among them), some pictures in our minds and hearts keep the memory alive and become something like little archetypes of their own.

    My father died fifteen years ago (but somewhat started dying after a severe stroke that confined him to his bed for three years in which I watched this beautiful, honourable, sweet man diminish with every month), and my fondest memory of his is – my dad sitting in a bistro, eating fresh mutton roast, his fingers all greasy and his eyes alight with happiness. There are many more memories like that, and I am certain, you have many of them in your mind, too. Memories enveloped in love.

    I believe that grief is nothing else but love. Only the colour has changed. And feeling grief over the loss of someone we were close to is, of course, painful and devastating at times, but it is also some kind of legacy and a gift… To know that our lives have been richer because they belonged there.
    That thought has often given me hope and put a smile on my lips when I’ve felt the ‘missing-them’ coming up again. As long as we love those we have lost there will be pain. Sometimes a lot. Sometimes it’s perfectly bearable, and sometimes it’s a smile when we remember a random funny moment we spent with those now lost to us. Personally, I’m okay with that. That’s a part of life neither of us can escape. But – and that I also believe – it makes us stronger, eventually.

    I wrote a poem a while back about a moment of grief, which I’d like to introduce to you, if you like. Here’s the link, should you be interested.

    Thank you, Eoin, for sharing your personal thoughts with us. I feel honoured. Jas

  24. there is nothing I can say that would appropriately convey how I feel about this poem, so i'm just going to say I know how you feel (unfortunately).

    I liked the song that accompanied the poem, it sounded soulful to me. however your poem more reminded me of this song:

    let me know what you think of it, I'm not sure it's your kinda thing, but it means a lot to me. it definitely helps me recollect my thoughts about people I have, and people i've lost. and if anyone else feels it helps, then it's even better :)

    finally, I don't know if this'll mean much to you, but... i'll pray for you (and everyone else in similar situations) to remain strong.
    much love, xxxx

  25. Thank you for sharing not only your poem but also such a personal experience. In a bizarre way I'd like to also thank you for making me feel not so alone. My Dad was diagnosed with a grade four brain tumour 15 months ago.
    You wrote 'people deal with it differently, but sometimes hearing a song or reading about somebody else's experiences can help' it's comforting, reassuring somehow.

  26. To Fefe au bled, just kahlan and Jas, I'm sorry to hear about your losses. Thank you all for the lovely words about this poem, I wasn't sure what to expect with posting as hadn't re-visited it for a seems to have connected with quite a lot of people and had a resonance which is wonderful, I always found certain art, photos, stories and so forth helped in many ways with the events that we face in life, and I'm humbled that some people here and on twitter have found it cathartic to read. At least they say it was....
    Kez, thank you for sharing that poem, it is true that the most striking art or words can come from grief which is unfortunate, but I always remember an artist/writer who told me to use those moments of hardship and channel them into a different more positive avenue.....
    Samantha, I'm very sorry to hear about your dad, I won't be so crass as to simply wish that you are ok, as there is very little that can be said in that time, but genuinely you can only cherish what you have with your dad, and give him strength....I hope he gets better and that you can help him, and be kind to yourself also as that is very important too....
    much love to you all, and thanks, it's very inspiring to get reactions like this off people, and I am honestly touched...

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  28. I did not used to let me easily. but I just wanted to thank you for this beautiful poem in tribute to your dad.
    Indeed, I saw the same pain. Last year, my father died of cancer (dirty disease). 3 years ago, it was my husband who left in a motorcycle accident.
    this poem I feel that it's them so they look like in the details of their lives.
    weird to write things that seem so familiar while we do the same.
    it's the same pain felt by humans when a part of them they are torn.
    thank you again for you to be told and I know how this can be very difficult. it is an honor for me to read such beautiful lines

  29. I know you wrote this a fair while ago, but I thought I'd post a quick comment anyway.

    Reading this felt rather bittersweet, as touching as the poem is, because I lost my mum to a brain tumour (her second) about three and a half years ago. Losing a parent is something that you can't really describe, and I commend you for putting it into words in the form of this poem, because I've never found it easy to write about Mum (even posting something like this is only because your situation struck so close to home). I'm really sorry for your loss, but I can really respect that you're still out living your life and enjoying it, and that with poems like this you can still feel close to your dad.

    Lovely poem with a beautiful sentiment.

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  31. This is a beautiful poem, Eoin. I can sense the love you had/have for your father in every line.

    So sorry for your loss. My dad died of colon/liver cancer 7 years ago, and my mom died during heart surgery 5 years ago, just a month after my son was born. I could never get out a poem for my dad, but I started one for my mom after she died.

  32. Just found this in your blog this morning and it brings back all the memories from just a few weeks ago .. seeing my father fight, struggle and lose the fight was the hardest thing I have ever had to wittness and I am still like in a schock about it most of the time. All of a sudden everything went down hill so fast and yes.. as you told me, I have been lucky that he was at my side for so long. Still I miss my rock every day and sometimes I feel lost and left alone and I´m so angry with him for leaving me, leaving us.
    Your poem is wonderful, Eoin ... very touching ... love and appreciation for your dad in every word.
    Thanks for sharing.. thanks for every nice word for me and my lil ones.. thanks for being you!


  33. your love is strong in this poem for your father and his way and for your mother too, it's a good poem, i lost my sister to ms more than 10 years ago, it was a slow painful death and I saw her daughters suffering, but I love her the same way, even now, thank you for sharing this.

  34. The love in the poem shows more than words. I never had a father, and my mom tried to do her best. I knew where my "father" was every time I needed someone there. And remembered he wasn't coming.

    This poem showed me the real way a father should be. The words tangled around my heart and shall stay there.

    Thank you for this. I can never repay what your words have done for me.

  35. That was truly beautiful. I love the language you used and how you conjured up such vivid images but it was the emotion that really got to me. My mom died 10 years ago of lung cancer and it's always hard to think of it and her in those last days. Better to remember her smile and what she gave to us all. So, too, your poem really came across with love and loss and remembering happier times. Thank you.

  36. You are a so beautiful human being, and that is thank to your parents. Bless them. A magnificent man from another. You father will live forever. Love you.