This Man I knew

I studied him, eyes closed as if in prayer,
Rugged face and furrowed brow.
I yearned to see him and not stare;
Aged, no youth in him now.

I wondered how he came to be,
This man I met each day.
How he came to mean so much to me,
Why our lives had crossed this way.

I saw a man who thought life sad,
No joy in him that I could see.
His troubles must have been quite bad,
For him to look this way to me.

I thought his youth quite poor and spare,
In days of men in line for soup and work.
Food and bread, so dear and rare,
When families hungered, and joy seemed but a quirk.

I knew that he had fought in war,
Tattoos, crossed cannons and anchors, etched his arms.
Palm trees and dancing girls, too, he bore,
A sailing ship filled out his inked charms.

I studied him while he lay there,
Labored life, and weary face so lined.
I could not help but look and stare,
And think for what he pined.

I wondered at the path he trod,
Twisted, narrow, switch-backed road.
Worn soles on shoes he wore through rock and sod,
The blocks and barriers he over-rode.

I saw then, his life open to me,
Chapters, words, and pages.
And all the things that made him come to be,
All the laughter, tears, and rages.

I thought of all the work he’d done,
Milkman, guard, and Sailor.
A life of toil, leisure hard-won;
Each penny saved a dream to savor.

I knew then who this man must be,
This man, who dying, looked so sad.
His life when young was spare to me,
This man that I called Dad.

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