(No Sacrament Available)
Paul Hamill

(No Sacrament Available)

There are no rituals for parenthood,
not when it’s underway and all themes deepen.
Ethical growth, for instance—parents learn
to keep their word, to stick to work, to wait
for the whole truth, to parcel out resources,
to yield their pride to need. They also grow
in tragic knowledge: fear for the sick child,
grieving with children for the passage of elders
they all loved, swallowing hurt and burying wrath
for young bystanders’ sake. When parents meet,
as women talk above small children’s play
or couples visiting couples match their tales
of children’s ways, or when an elder tells
the temperaments of children long since grown,
bequeathing the hard lessons of tolerance,
the talk resembles that in portside taverns
favored by pilots and skippers, who stop for news
to steer by: what ships are out late, what bars
have shifted, where the fishing fleet is headed:
specifics from shared knowledge of the sea,
a power so great that no one speaks of it
except when a storm kills, or when the young
must learn to trust what they will also fear.

Paul Hamill

is a retired professor and college administrator and the author of four poetry collections and a recent prose book on the theme of fraternity, And Crown Thy Good with Brotherhood. He has six children and ten grandchildren.