Edwina Trentham

My Father's Gift

Hearing of my failure,
my father turned his face
from death for the moment,
and we spent my sixteenth
summer enclosed in screen
and limestone, a porch
high above the harbor,
where he taught me to take
apart those solid blocks
of Latin that scholars love
to call "the unseen."  Head
bent to the book, long fingers
resting on the uneasy
card-table, he returned
 
to his Oxford days, the blithe,
young scholar fifty years gone
by then, handed me the keys
to those blank walls of words,
and we passed through them
together.  And so, as the sun
skipped coins of light
on the sea below, and oleander
drifted pink and white
in the corner of my eye,
I learned to love the unseen.
 
I have lost all my Latin
now, but this morning,
when I opened his Christ
Church notebook, I found
again what he gave me
that summer--set down
in cramped filigree, thirty
years and more before
my birth, the life
of the mind, exuberant,
contained, still blossoming
on the faded page.

from Stumbling into the Light