For my father
Now that I think of it, I should send you
Eighty songs, and eighty flowers, just one candle
Because we have one life only
To make up for that accordion you so much
Wished to have all of your life
First from your father, and then secretly
Probably from anyone who would have given it
To you. I only learned about this wish of yours
This year and you know, I dreamed
That perfect, shiny, echoing instrument.
But it turns out it would be too dangerous to ship
From Ireland, or France, let’s say
All the way to Grand Rapids, Michigan
Where you now have difficulties breathing
Just a day before your birthday—but nothing serious—
Only a passing clogged up nose. The accordion
Is like an egg, you see, you cannot really ship it
You bump it a bit and the sound cracks.
But I have been researching and even dreamed
To take a journey to those places in the country
Where artisans make them from special wood,
Turn that tree into a lung, a back and a chest
That sing when you coax them with your touch.
I can see you, a little boy sitting next to the village
Accordion player, tapping your foot, wanting
That box for yourself, wanting the music inside
And God, what life has given you instead.
But here we are on your eightieth birthday, Dad,
I am so proud you made it through famine, prison
Labour camps, exile, cancer, and lately isolation.
I am so proud I am saying, and I am so poor
(a poor poet, you can laugh, yes, dreaming dreams
Like warm loaves of bread, that accordion for you)
Oh, God, I am proud you are turning eighty
Tomorrow, please accept this accordion
This year, as generously as you accepted
Everything else life has given you
Instead of what you wished for—some times
(Like you) I think dreams might count for more.