When my father died,

I went away.

I travelled,


I have returned

to my home, his home,

my grandfather’s house.



There I saw today

between the baking oven and the wood pile

close to the worm-eaten milk cart

the wood block lying –

a barkless piece of trunk,

elongated, curved,

with crosswise notches from an axe.



I felt deserted by my father

when I saw that block of wood.



Men that limp,

wobble when they walk,

or move at a slant,

or drag

              with one leg –



their sons are often pigheaded.

Doing what you feel like,

is that rather like limping?



Men that limp

leave curious tracks





On a journey, in Bhutan,

I once saw huge men –

with bird masks,

with pig’s snouts,

with dog’s teeth,


            dancing in a circle

                                        on one sore leg.


They’re doing what they feel like.

Those dog’s teeth say so much!



I grew up without dog’s teeth.

My body was intact –

I never left any tracks.



I could walk when I was eleven months,

not a trace of a limp –

not a single infirmity.



If a man wants to stop limping,

other things start going awry.

The blue vase falls off the table

at the slightest breath of wind.

The walls crack.

The car breaks down.



Strange how that block of wood

made me think of my father.



Since he died,

everyone says I look like him.

Before his death

nobody ever said

I looked like my father.



On his wedding day he

limped into the room.

He leant on a stick

so that no one tried

to offer him a shoulder

to lean on.

He wobbled, but stayed upright.

He did what he felt like.

He did things his own way.



Strange how those huge

                          dancing men in Bhutan

made me think of my father.



He came limping into the room.

It was a simple wedding,

three people –

my father, the bride and me.

There was coffee and cake,

lots of stories,

little talking –

we did not understand each other,

my father, his bride, and me.



No one called for attention,

no one picked up a book,

no one said something biblical

or prophetic.

The bride stepped forward

and stood next to my father.



When it was all over,

I took him

in my arms –

for the first time,

for the last time.



After that he was alone,

and I was alone.

After that there was only

my grandfather’s house.



It’s a lie –


      has anyone said I look like my father.





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Joris Iven