my father's work
a poem by  
  keith  o'connor
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My father and his friends worked for the same employer for over thirty years. They became a family supporting each other during the hard times and enjoying the good times together. Even in my father's time this type of working environment was rare. 
My father's work 

when I was young 
there was no 
official day on which to 
visit your father 
or mother at work 
I had a message for 
my father 
and that 
was my admission ticket 
into his unknown work world 
I walked up the steep  
King Edward St. hill 
that started just south 
of Rideau St. 
My father had walked up that hill 
six days a week 
for thirty plus years 
He was the last 
of the old English 
 worked through  
the great depression 
of the nineteen thirties 
making and repairing 
fine antique furniture 
for the 
upper middle class 
governor generals 
prime ministers 
I finally arrived at the hill top 
there it was 
just to the right 
off a nice stretch of flat sidewalk 
"the old curiosity shop" 
named after it's counterpart 
in London England. 
The owner would make 
an annual trip to England 
bring back broken antique 
furniture in bags 
for her team of expert  
cabinet-workers to restore 
I went up the few steps 
opened the castle like door 
the gentle sound of small bells 
announced my entrance 
 as my eyes  
adjusted to the quitet light 
cut crystal began to sparkle 
table tops suddenly glowed 
and  fabric shimmered 
in the shafts soft light  
coming through the  
diamond patterned 
lead glass windows along one wall 
a small elderly woman approached 
after hearing of my message 
I was shown  to a set of well worn wood steps 
that lead up to the cabinet makers room 
at the top of the narrow dimly lit steps 
I stepped into a shadowed  room 
sharp knives of sunlight 
cut through small skylights 
 in the roof. 
the familiar smell of simmering 
hyde glue scented the air 
slow floating sawdust particles 
glowed like jewels when struck 
by narrow beams of sunlight 
from the shadows 
my father's voice called 
by the time I reached his work bench 
my eyes had begun to adjust 
he was covered with 
fine particles of wood dust 
 in front of his wood workers bench 
from one end of his bench to the other 
was the smooth groove 
worn down from thirty plus years 
of his shifting feet 
that sanded his half inch deep  
daily work diary 
into the thick twelve inch wide 
pine boards that had been  
milled in the nineteenth century 
from thousand year old trees 
he blew the dust off his eye glases 
I watched as the  
little puffs of saw dust 
floated off into the shadows 
he read the message 
put it in his pocket 
introduced me to his fellow workers 
they were more than just fellow workers 
they had grown old together 
they had talked of their 
happy times 
their sad times 
worried about friends and relatives 
dying in the London blitz 
shared the sorrow 
of war office telegrams 
typed with cold bureaucratic words 
naming loved ones 
gone forever 
going to my father's work 
was more than 
going to my father's work 
I had gone  
 through the door 
into my father's soul 

Keith O'Connor 
Aug  3   2001 
Ottawa Canada 


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