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Poem for My Father's Birthday
Nils Peterson


When I was so small
You could hurl me to heaven
And catch me when the angels missed,
You stood tall as a ship
That could sail to China
And blow home before supper.
When you were so big
You could hold back the sunset
Or spin the moon on the back of your hand,
I was so small
I could run in your shadow
And never reach the end of it.

One night when Long John Silver
Swore and threw his crutch
Of lightning across the sky
And the thunder of his guns assaulted us
Until our windowpanes shook with fright
And the maddened horse of a wind
Almost ran us down as it tried to escape,
You put you man’s hand
On the back of my neck
And found words to ease me
So that when the rain bullets came,
I could enjoy my trembling.


From A Walk to the Center of Things (Robertson Publishing, 2011).
This poem first appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal.
Used here with the author's permission.




 Nils Peterson is Professor Emeritus at San Jose State University. In 2009, he was chosen the first Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County. He has published poetry, science fiction, and articles on subjects as varied as golf and Shakespeare, and his work was featured in Local Habitations, a collection of work by fellow poets laureate of Santa Clara County. Enjoy reading Nils’ memoir at


Post New Comment:
Endearing. I loved the first stanza. Daddy was my idol, next to God. I am like him today,though a retired/widowed female.
Posted 06/18/2016 06:09 PM
Posted 06/18/2016 04:32 PM
Marvelous images! An outstanding poem!
Posted 06/18/2016 12:39 PM
Posted 06/18/2016 12:17 PM
Heartfelt and filled with your images. What a beautiful poem, Nils.
Posted 06/18/2016 10:52 AM
Lori Levy:
Especially like the feeling of the second stanza with the lightning, thunder,rain images.
Posted 06/18/2016 10:25 AM
That is an incredibly wonderful poem. I absolutely love it. :-)
Posted 06/18/2016 10:02 AM
Gilbert Allen:
A vivid and heartfelt poem.
Posted 06/18/2016 09:26 AM
So lovely.
Posted 06/18/2016 08:56 AM
Posted 06/18/2016 08:55 AM
...When I was so small You could hurl me to heaven And catch me when the angels missed... Evokes a deep resonance. Many thanks, Nils.
Posted 06/18/2016 08:16 AM
Wow! You had me from the first metaphor. A magnificent description of the indescribable. Thank you!
Posted 06/18/2016 07:14 AM
Larry Schug:
A poem with two very different feeling verses-both speaking truth in different ways. A poem worth study and thought.
Posted 06/18/2016 07:00 AM
0h, Yum...That was delicious...
Posted 06/18/2016 02:27 AM

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