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January 27: A Poem for Pete

Janet Fallon
January 26, 2016

On his second yortsayt, January 27th

by Janet Falon


pete-seeger-1I’d like to ask Pete Seeger to supper in my sukkah.

He’d be a heavenly guest, my quirky own ushpiz

I’d serve vegetable stew on brown rice

and a seedy home-risen bread

and after a local, seasonal pie

I’d turn to him, and tell him

how I grew up, and then out, on his music,

how The Weavers was my family’s soundtrack,

how my parents didn’t care about the politics

but just liked the songs, and sang along

— and our family didn’t sing much —

especially my father, in a buffalo-plaid shirt,

at an Adirondacks bungalow,

on the steps to a screened-in porch,

holding up the trout he’d caught on Schroon River

like a Torah just taken from the Ark.

After I’d served tea, and offered sweaters against the autumn night,

I’d turn to Pete, and tell him

how his songs, and the banjo,

and that beckoning voice of his youth

are the best sounds of my innocent soul,

the part that’s pure, that’s remained unmarred;

that his songs blessed me with things to believe in,

and how, to this day, I’m not only willing,

but I’m desperate for him to raise a hand between strums,

and point to me, to us, urging us to sing together, to sing along,

to sing for God-knows-what something.

The sukkah rustles in the wind, leaves crackle,

weary season’s-end mosquitos make a half-hearted appearance.

I wrap my father’s buffalo-plaid shirt around me;

I wear some of his clothes now that he’s gone.

Pete would turn to me, nod, then look away,

and sit up higher in his brittle, reedy body.

He’d hold up his hand as if to part waters

and point

and every person sitting in any sukkah

anywhere in the world at that moment

would start singing that song from Ecclesiastes,

The one about time for this, and time for that,

and the four-part harmony would rise out of the sukkahs

towards heaven, if there is one,

like sweet, good-hearted smoke.

Janet Ruth Falon is an award-winning writer, author of The Jewish Journaling Book, and writing teacher whose classes help people identify and tell their life stories.