52 Poems: Week 24 Dick Lourie on Forgiving our Fathers

It's Father's Day and for me it's a fairly uncomplicated day. I don't live close enough to spend the day with my dad, and my husband is easy-going when it comes to holidays like this. But the relationships we have with our fathers, whether our fathers are still with us or not, are complicated.

I love how this poem captures that.

You might recognize it from the last scene in the movie Smoke Signals based on Sherman Alexie's short story "This is What It Means to Say Pheonix, Arizona" from his collection Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.

How Do We Forgive Our Fathers?
By Dick Lourie

How do we forgive our Fathers?
Maybe in a dream
Do we forgive our Fathers for leaving us too often or forever
when we were little?
Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage
or making us nervous
because there never seemed to be any rage there at all.

Do we forgive our Fathers for marrying or not marrying our Mothers?
For Divorcing or not divorcing our Mothers?

And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth or coldness?
Shall we forgive them for pushing or leaning
for shutting doors
for speaking through walls
or never speaking
or never being silent?

Do we forgive our Fathers in our age or in theirs
or their deaths
saying it to them or not saying it?

If we forgive our Fathers what is left?


  1. What is left? For me, having gone through a long (my twenties) unforgiving stage, is the fear of losing him. Of knowing how much I'll never have grasped or learned about the man he is. I forgave mine in both my age and his.

  2. My journey with my father is watching him age, and as time transforms him, attempting to reconnect. I guess we are constantly losing those we love as we all grow and change with age and become different people.