Papa was an artist

Living in the tall timber,
the big Douglas fir kind,
paints a cool blue green picture
‘cross the back of your mind.

Some paint pictures with brushes,
others paint them with rhymes.
Some who work by the hour
make beauty out of that time.

My Papa was an artist
when he worked on the land,
reaching out with his dragline
just like it was God’s hand.
He dug with such smoothness,
and an effortless grace,
people gathered to watch him
with a smile on their face.

Henry broke in at nineteen,
something he wanted so.
Greenwood Logging had called him,
and he was ready to go.
Up at two in the morning,
starting work at first light.
Cutting grade wasn’t easy,
but his eye saw it right.

It was just two years later,
his rig crushed his left arm.
Fingers frozen forever,
what could do him more harm?
Doctors said he was finished:
none could run crippled so.
But he struggled and did it,
never let the pain show.

Building beautiful fishponds,
railroad grade by the mile,
mountain roads and log bridges,
doing them all with style.
Wishkah Valley to Sekiu,
way up near Clallum Bay.
Three Hundred Line to the Muddy,
building roads all the way.

Papa loved running shovel,
nearly seventy years.
Those who’d seen many runners
said that he had few peers,
cause he knew what he wanted,
with a vision so clear
that never got clouded
by doubt or by fear.

With a thousand ideas,
projects he had in store.
If he lived to two hundred,
he’d dream up two thousand more.
Though he never learned patience,
his hot temper would flare,
working harder and harder,
sometimes it didn’t seem fair.

When consumed by these passions,
he could seem harsh and cold.
Then he’d soften and let go
feelings he hadn’t told.
He would write of these feelings,
sitting thoughtful at home,
searching hard for the right words
to express them as poems.

He was proud of his writing,
words that had a fine sound.
Yet he seemed most poetic
when he sculpted the ground.
For Papa was an artist,
when he worked on the land,
reaching out with his dragline,
just like it was his hand.

–Mel Malinowski

For his father, Henry J. Malinowski, on his 85th birthday