6 Father's Day Poems For That Last Minute Card You Forgot To Pick Up At The Hallmark Store

BERLIN - AUGUST 31: Oliver H., 42, a married federal employee on 6-month paternity leave, reads to his twin 14-month-old daughters Alma (R) and Lotte at his home on August 31, 2010 in Berlin, Germany. Under German law married couples may take 14 months parent leave, to be divided between the two spouses, during which an individual receives two thirds of his or her normal income from the state, up to EUR 1,800 a month. In order to encourage more fathers to take paternity leave, German Family Minister Kristina Schroeder is seeking to lengthen parent leave from the current 14 months to 16 months, though German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble sees the measure as too expensive. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Source: Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The following statement will either be completely obvious or send you into a state of rushed panic: Father's Day is upon us. Yes, the day when we pay homage to the dads and dad figures in our lives. Despite the fact that the holiday rose to national prominence as a result of hardcore campaigning my menswear retailers (no, really), even my cynical self feels like at worst it's silly and at its best it's a way to show our fathers, grandfathers, and the fathers of our children that we love them. How can that be so bad? 

Well, okay, maybe one thing about the whole kerfuffle is really bad: Those cards. When can we universally agree that the schmaltzy, pastel nightmare of greeting card Father's Day poetry has no place in polite society? Especially when there are so many amazing actual poems by actual poets about fathers out there. Admittedly, there are probably more poems about bad/scary fathers than good ones. Sylvia Plath's Daddy, for example, isn't exactly something you stitch onto a pillow and give to pops. But there are plenty of heartfelt, touching poems out there to maybe make dad shed a tear...Or read it over look up at you and say, "What the hell is this? Is this supposed to be a poem? It doesn't rhyme." (There are no guarantees here.) 

So instead of hastily running to the card aisle of the CVS on the way to your parents' house this year (no judgement: we've all been there), I'd highly suggest checking out poets.org for all your Father's Day poetry needs. (Or really any poetry needs, it's a fantastic site.) I've gathered some of my favorites below...

Whose Mouth Do I Speak With by Suzanne Rancourt

For the dad who can't give his kids much, but gives them more than enough.

I can remember my father bringing home spruce gum.
He worked in the woods and filled his pockets
with golden chunks of pitch.
For his children
he provided this special sacrament
and we'd gather at his feet, around his legs,
bumping his lunchbox, and his empty thermos rattled inside.
Our skin would stick to Daddy's gluey clothing
and we'd smell like Mumma's Pine Sol.
We had no money for store bought gum
but that's all right.
The spruce gum 
was so close to chewing amber
as though in our mouths we held the eyes of Coyote
and how many other children had fathers
that placed on their innocent, anxious tongue
the blood of a tree?

Those Winter Sundays by Robert Hayden

For the hardworking dad whose love language is "acts of service"


Yesterday by W.S. Merwin

For the father we're reverse "Cat's in the Cradle"ing...

My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand

he says I did not go 
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know

even when I was living in the same city he sys
maybe I would go there once
a month or maybe even less
I say oh yes

he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father

he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me

oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father’s hand the last time
he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk with me

oh yes I say

but if you are busy he said
I don’t want you to feel that you
have to
just because I’m here

I say nothing

he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don’t want to keep you

I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
you know

though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do

Danse Russe by William Carlos Williams

For the inner lives our fathers live that we know nothing about.


My Father's Hats by Mark Irwin

For the million little objects that evoke our fathers...


My Father On His Shield by Walt McDonald

For the fathers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Shiny as wax, the cracked veneer Scotch-taped
and brittle. I can’t bring my father back. 
Legs crossed, he sits there brash 

with a private’s stripe, a world away 
from the war they would ship him to 
within days. Cannons flank his face 

and banners above him like the flag 
my mother kept on the mantel, folded tight, 
white stars sharp-pointed on a field of blue. 

I remember his fists, the iron he pounded, 
five-pound hammer ringing steel, 
the frame he made for a sled that winter 

before the war. I remember the rope in his fist 
around my chest, his other fist 
shoving the snow, and downhill we dived, 

his boots by my boots on the tongue, 
pines whishing by, ice in my eyes, blinking 
and squealing. I remember the troop train, 

steam billowing like a smoke screen. 
I remember wrecking the sled weeks later 
and pounding to beat the iron flat, 

but it stayed there bent 
and stacked in the barn by the anvil, 
and I can’t bring him back. 

And for those for whom Father's Day is difficult, Father Outside by Nick Flynn is for the fathers who disappoint, and sometimes it helps to read a poem to know you're not alone in your feelings...

So there you have it. Go ahead and jot one of those down on a folded piece of construction paper and hand it to dad. He'll thank you...or maybe not, if he's not a poetry guy. In that case, just get him a tie as well.

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