07/30/2013 04:47 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2013

Feeling the Oar

My new book of poems, Reduced to Joy, is just being published. The book contains 73 poems, retrieved and shaped over the last 13 years, about the nature of working with what we're given till it wears us through to joy. For the next few months, I'd like to share poems from the new book with you.

I spend a great deal of time in planes, on my way to and from. In this poem, I tripped into a moment of seeing myself as the grown son of a man I am more like than I realized.

Feeling the Oar

I was in the air, frustrated
that fog had delayed us. Now,
I would miss my flight to Dallas
where I was on my way to speak
about obstacles as teachers.

I was feeling pissed off
when I noticed my left hand
on the seat -- it was my father's
hand -- the large knuckles, the
pronounced veins, the bark-like
wrinkles at the base of my thumb.

It was his hand as I had seen it
countless times: guiding a piece of
wood through a band saw or tapping
on an open book as he would
try to understand.

I opened and closed it like
someone waking from a long sleep.

It is the hand I write with. And it
is weathered, an immigrant hand,
rough from crossing many seas.

Had it not been for the fog and the
delay, I wouldn't have noticed.

I touched it with my other hand;
trying to know my father,
trying to feel the oar,
trying to remember the sea.

A Question to Walk With: Is one of your parents or relatives someone you feel most like? If so, who is that person and what traits of theirs do you find coming alive in you?

For more Poetry for the Soul, click here.

For more by Mark Nepo, click here.