Before black helmets with mighty shields,

window squares darkened in tempered glass,

welders wore only green-lensed goggles

and cotton skull caps for safety. In the same way

my correctable IBM typewriter sits silent

on a dusty shelf in the basement, these

goggles hung long years from a nail

on the wall in my father’s garage

until the elastic strap snapped and he tossed them

deep in a drawer to be rummaged around

with licorice twists of odd drill bits and

long steel bolts, all much used before.

He saved them for the same reason he kept

everything — might be useful, worth something

someday. He hoarded a great many things and why

I kept these, pulled from a box of clutter

the night before they auctioned off his life,

I can’t say except I am my father’s daughter

and the wobbly round windows bridged

only by rubbery nosepiece led me back to him —

the young man who was my childhood dad.

I nudge them now from my sacred stash

of aged family treasures, wish

I’d kept them zipped tight in plastic,

freshness seal checked, retained

smells of grease, metal, acetylene tanks

that steeped his old garage. He had

a filthy job — came home each day

in grime smeared coveralls, sooty boots,

brow furrowed where his headgear sat, burn

scars on his giant hands whose fingers

twice as wide as mine could fly like wings

through Flight of the Bumblebee on his

Gretsch guitar. I remember him old, too —

tufts of down white hair shading sky blue eyes

that ran like rivers while he grilled lamb chops

over apple wood smoke behind the house, or his

shy smile from back of the stage

when he played double bass for the Polka Jacks.

Over and over he said hard work pays bills

but a good musician always has money, and

having grown up poor he knew broke

by the smell of it. So when he saw that family

at McDonald’s, not enough cash for a Happy Meal,

he barged to the counter and bought them all Big Macs.

All his life he believed no one should go hungry

but Dad — it’s Father’s Day and I’m starved

for you! I press this scuffed lens to my nose,

seek out your scent, drink a faint little taste

in your memory.

Susan McMillan is Rochester’s poet laureate. She is also a member of Southeastern Minnesota Poets and the League of Minnesota Poets. “Father’s Day” won second place in the League’s annual contest, under the category “Bridges.” It’s never before been published. The Post Bulletin publishes poetry by Rochester-area writers every Monday. Send your work to Jeff Pieters, P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903 or

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