A favorite person forms like
a wave inside your own front door,
waiting for him to return from
6 o’clock, on the dot it seemed, by
the bannister I waited for him
you could hear a pin drop, the
clippity-clop of the business suit
Old Spice aftershave, and if there
was a smell of coffee or smoke
on a jacket, this was the seventies,
Dad a people person with all types,
smoking, drinking—getting a deal
done, let’s smile but first:
Let’s be safe. Clean is safe. The Navy
is clean. One, two, three, four—
we succeed by clearing the deck of
Loose will not do. We can party
later, but for now: it’s time to clean
up our acts, lickity-split get the turkey
in the oven, a ballgame’s on the TV.
Ouch, that’s hot. Stay away from that,
Billy. Stephen, can you get my mitt?
Johnny’s hiding? Oh, he’s with Billy.
Watch out! That’s hot, too! I hope
they learn their way—
Crack, I knew it off the bat; Steve Garvey
went deep, Pedro Guerrero, I’ll lift
little Billy in the air until he’s too heavy
or I’m too old, or both.
It’s good to be the king. It’s good to
win one, but you can’t count on it,
so think of others.
Don’t wait for them to clear the deck,
be ready to do it yourself.
Follow God, through His son Jesus
Christ. Hold the LORD’s prayer tight.
Be the apple in the eye of all that’s
right—do your best, there’s nothing
more we can.
Crack off the bat, another home run.
Where’s little Billy? The best us is you
and me, Adele and the song we play
at Christmas time.
Did you get your wreath?
We’re Celtic and Roman and Christian,
go back a long ways, Welshmen brothers
three sailing with Captain John Smith,
we made it with Native help, thank
God every morning and day, say
three prayers at night before you hug
your rainbow-colored pillow, furniture
I bought and painted for your room.
I didn’t do it all my way, her way, their
way. God runs this ship.
I just kept the deck clear. Stephen! Johnny!
The deck’s all clear, deck the halls
do it all with cheer and know I’m always
Did you get your wreath?
Yes, Dad, thanks. We love it. We always
do. Thanks for thinking of us, for going
to Jorgensen everyday for us, for the
lives you touched, for the effort you
The deck is now clear, for the church
and your wreath—the spirit you always
bring, the effort, the song and dance—
a soft shoe because David did it too.
Thanks for a chance to please the LORD,
honor you and Mom. 1925 to 2017 are
numbers, ninety-two times around the sun,
My dad was a clean hit over the wall in
center, a moon over night, a dream for
five year olds at a bannister waiting to
laugh and grow, be first after God in the
heart of an Alhambra-born hero of seven
kids destined to make more, be more, and
do good for as long as I write.
Ted and Eddy, do your parts. Ring out
to Orange County, Central Coast, the East
and from there across the ocean and
see the Celtic cross we brought across.
Giving effort! Protecting your family!
Leaving your mark at God’s feet, kneeling
before every strike to be the best
person he could have been.
Rise up, all, with John Watkins in
your heart and step, finish his work
well, never fully-dressed until smiling
meaning the deck is clean, and
the boat’s on a proper course.
The next challenge will be there.
Not with me, but with what you learned;
so turn, don’t… it’s up to you, but know
I’m with you, and hope as I always did
that you turn out well!
John Francis Watkins