Working Late

Louis Simpson

 
A light is on in my father's study.
"Still up?" he says, and we are silent,
looking at the harbor lights,
listening to the surf
and the creak of coconut boughs.
He is working late on cases.
No impassioned speech! He argues from evidence,
actually pacing out and measuring,
while the fans revolving on the ceiling
winnow the true from the false.
Once he passed a brass curtain rod
through a head made out of plaster
and showed the jury the angle of fire--
where the murderer must have stood.
For years, all through my childhood,
if I opened a closet . . . bang!
There would be the dead man's head
with a black hole in the forehead.
All the arguing in the world
will not stay the moon.
She has come all the way from Russia
to gaze for a while in a mango tree
and light the wall of a veranda,
before resuming her interrupted journey
beyond the harbor and the lighthouse
at Port Royal, turning away
from land to the open sea.
Yet, nothing in nature changes, from that day to this,
she is still the mother of us all.
I can see the drifting offshore lights,
black posts where the pelicans brood.
And the light that used to shine
at night in my father's study
now shines as late in mine.
 
From Collected Poems by Louis Simpson, published by Paragon House, 1988. Copyright © 1988 by Louis Simpson. All rights reserved. Used with permission. (Originally published in Caviare at the Funeral, Franklin Watts, 1980.)

Poems by This Author

Apart (Les Séparés) by Louis Simpson and Marceline Desbordes-Valmore
Do not write. I am sad, and want my light put out.
Carentan O Carentan by Louis Simpson
Trees in the old days used to stand
Honeymoon by Louis Simpson
Uncle Bob prayed over the groom:


Further Reading

Dead Father Poems
Cruel Cogito
by Ken Chen
Do not go gentle into that good night
by Dylan Thomas
Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World
by Sherman Alexie
Lay Back the Darkness
by Edward Hirsch
Little Father
by Li-Young Lee
Mortality
by William Knox
My Father
by Scott Hightower
My Father on His Shield
by Walt McDonald
My Father's Hat
by Mark Irwin
Parents
by William Meredith
Renewal [Excerpt]
by Chris Abani
Separation is the necessary condition for light.
by Brian Teare
The Figure
by Joseph Fasano
The Gift
by Li-Young Lee
Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
To Her Father with Some Verses
by Anne Bradstreet
Whose Mouth Do I Speak With
by Suzanne Rancourt
Yesterday
by W. S. Merwin
Poems About Fathers
'The child is father to the man.'
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
The Last 4 Things [That hard thread]
by Kate Greenstreet
A Boy and His Dad
by Edgar Guest
A Situation for Mrs. Biswas
by Prageeta Sharma
A Story
by Philip Levine
A Story
by Li-Young Lee
American Primitive
by William Jay Smith
Another Country
by Ryan Teitman
Auld Lang Syne
by Jennifer L. Knox
Blood
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Confessions: My Father, Hummingbirds, and Frantz Fanon
by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Daddy
by Sylvia Plath
Descriptions of Heaven and Hell
by Mark Jarman
Do not go gentle into that good night
by Dylan Thomas
Father
by Edgar Guest
Father Outside
by Nick Flynn
Father's Day Cards
from The Princess [Sweet and low, sweet and low]
by Lord Alfred Tennyson
Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World
by Sherman Alexie
Her Father
by Thomas Hardy
How to Be a Lawyer
by Jordan Davis
Inventing Father In Las Vegas
by Lynn Emanuel
Lay Back the Darkness
by Edward Hirsch
Like Him
by Aaron Smith
Man of the Year
by Robin Becker
Meeting with My Father in the Orchard
by Homero Aridjis
My Father
by Scott Hightower
my father moved through dooms of love
by E. E. Cummings
My Father on His Shield
by Walt McDonald
My Father Remembers Blue Zebras
by Judy Halebsky
My Father's Hat
by Mark Irwin
My Father's Leaving
by Ira Sadoff
My Papa's Waltz
by Theodore Roethke
Only a Dad
by Edgar Guest
Parents
by William Meredith
Passing
by Carl Phillips
Poems about Fathers
Renewal [Excerpt]
by Chris Abani
Separation is the necessary condition for light.
by Brian Teare
Shaving Your Father's Face
by Michael Dickman
Tended Strength: Gifts of Poetry for Fathers
The Ferryer
by Sharon Olds
The Idea of Ancestry
by Etheridge Knight
The Idiot
by Charles Reznikoff
The Portrait
by Stanley Kunitz
The Trouble Ball [excerpt]
by Martín Espada
Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
To Her Father with Some Verses
by Anne Bradstreet
Toad
by Diane Seuss
Whose Mouth Do I Speak With
by Suzanne Rancourt
With Kit, Age 7, at the Beach
by William Stafford
Yesterday
by W. S. Merwin