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misty green branches

Three Poems for Fathers Day

For My Sons

Jacob Stratman


Joy curves in a trajectory: a poem for my son before school

A Golden Shovel for Marilyn Nelsonfootnote

Happiness, theologians tell me, is not joy,
but they haven’t seen how the ball curves
as it leaves your small hand and begins in
its journey toward my hand – not quite a
straight line, yet still its own trajectory.

four boys jumping to hit a soccer ball in a forest

The Juncos want for nothing: a poem for my sons when they wait for news

A family of Dark-eyed
Juncos have now arrived
at the Oak tree feeder.

I say family loosely;
I’ve only seen the males
scratching the oddly warm

mid-February ground,
never with much interest
in the feeders above:

House Finches, Goldfinches,
and the bullying House
Sparrows.  Food will be there,

they think, especially
when my son throws handfuls
of thistle seed around

the base of the feeders.
It’s easy to watch them
want for nothing, gleaning

two boys jumping to hit a soccer ball in a forest

leftovers from the ones
who dance and dive around
each other – acrobats

and pugilists, grabbing
the easy spot to eat,
letting only a few

seeds drop. Juncos are blind
to accidental grace,
never acknowledging

their benefactors – just
here, scratching and bowing.
I’m watching the Juncos,

reading family texts
about your surgery,
while reaching for a light

thread, the metaphor’s deft
linchpin. It evades me,
mostly, swaying somewhere

above my head, while I,
face down, want for everything
and write nourishing lines.


A poem for my sons when they have to account for themselves

“But Mary, virgin, had no sittings, no chance to pose her piety.” Luci Shaw “Announcement”

I keep telling you, when we catch
you in a lie or hear of your casual

a boy jumping to hit a soccer ball in a forest

disobediences, that integrity
is doing the right thing when no one

is looking, which is crap, we both know,
or at least I am beginning to smell

its stale bumper sticker odor. Someone
is always watching.  You are never alone,

never beyond the reach of the one
who knew you before I knew to consider

you, never too far above or below
the one who cares for nurtures attends

to you.  Consider your life a nest,
not a bubble or a glass bowl

or a cage, ornate or rusting. Consider
Mary who knew, always resting

in the assurance that she is known
that she didn’t need to rehearse,

she didn’t need to pose her posture,
her words now an anthology

of gestures of praise of automatic
awe and love and yes.


  1. The Golden Shovel is a poetic form developed by Terrence Hayes in his poem “The Golden Shovel” in praise of Gwendolyn Brooks’ famous poem “we real cool.”  In the form, the poet uses a line from another poem and places each word as the last word of the line in the new poem.  
Contributed By Jacob Stratman Jacob Stratman

Jacob Stratman’s poems and essays have been published (or are forthcoming) in numerous magazines and reviews.

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