5 Poems for Father’s Day

Poetry for the father in your life from Boy, the new Publishers Weekly—starred book from Assistant Professor of English Patrick Phillips

For more about Phillips, visit  www.patrickthemighty.com.

Our Situation

In the dark we watch
our son’s chest
rise and fall,
a balsawood airplane
still clutched in his fist
as he sleeps.

How reckless it seems.
How naïve:
to love a thing
so perfect and so weak.


My heart swelled inexplicably
when I turned the key

and caught the scent
of something lovely, coming from the kitchen.

I dropped my loaded bag
and clowned a heart attack

when my son came running from his room
and gripped my thumbs, and balanced on my shoes.

And as I broke into our nightly dance—
his graceless, middle-aged old man,

I knew: that I will be content
if this is all the heaven we are granted.


I can see the grout between the bricks
and hear the Hot Wheel clatter
as it fishtails, and then flips.

The stove like some experiment:
clouds of sweet steam belching
each time my mother lifts
the stock pot’s sweaty lid.

My sister’s busy with her ponies.
My brother in the fortress of his room.

So I alone sprawl at her feet—
the same age, and in
exactly the same mood

as my son, now, in this kitchen
where soon we will
have lived so long ago.

A History of Twilight

They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
—Donald Justice

When the sky is full of day each night
and all the little windows glow,
I lie back on a Star Wars pillow
and give the performance of my life:

playing the role of my father, reading
a bedtime story to my sons,
my voice so strangely his it comes
to me: that such am I to them,

though to myself I’m still, forever
the one who shines over the book:
the bright boy shining a little brighter
every time his father looks.


You won’t believe it now,
but for two whole days
you were only the baby,
the boy,
the X-Man,  Dr. Who.

I could barely stand it,
but your mother
was in no hurry
to decide whose eyes
cracked open, like a kitten,
as you nursed.

She cooed and kissed
and cupped your throbbing skull,
and lingered,
until they brought the yellow form,
in that moment
when we could have called you anything.

When you were you,
and had no other name.

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