Life of Father

by Joe Dobrow ©1990


I wrote this poem for my father Alan’s 60th birthday, in 1990. In addition to referencing a huge number of events from the year of his birth, it employs another unusual device, internal homonyms, which I have never seen before. I don’t know how I came up with it, but it was hard enough to do that I have never attempted it again.

The Twenties roared, then Lindy soared
While down in Gramercy Park ward
Our gramma, see, was a mom to be:
The corks popped and the champagne poured.

Hubby Barn could spin a yarn
For poetry he gave a darn.
And a poet tree was what we’d see
When Alan and his kids were born.

Nine months passed, and then at last
Our Alan made the debut cast
De beauty of this little love
Left Minna feint and Barney sassed.

Around then, too, it’s strange but true:
Judge Crater disappeared from view.
Dis appeared so cruel, so weird
Ring out the old, bring in the new.

Wall Street got a bit too hot:
Who ver villains, who ver not?
Hoovervilles lined all the hills
The president was on the spot.

The welfare line made people pine
A number were too poor to dine
So numb or not they called a lot
To GR3-7989.

And so with Min now pitching in
A healthy payscale did begin
It’s hell the pace, but Al’d embrace
This life engaged in medicine.

In baby gown he looked uptown
The Chrysler Building gained renown.
But cries lurched out, young Al had doubts
He’d ever find his way around.

The Fleischmann Hour’s broadcast power
Plugged margarine in the Bronx and ‘Bower
But in March or in the early sprin’
A different show start, much more dour.

The radio plays “Death Valley Days,”
A lesson in old Western ways;
But less in vogue’s Von Sturburg’s rogues
So in Al’s mind the cowboy stays.

On silver screens from here to Queens
Wallace Beery made some scenes
While ice beer chilled in the rear
Of fridges, ‘longside Ovaltines.

George Hill gave us “Min and Bill,”
And fancy theaters show it still.
Fans see Marie Dressler less
But we see Min and always will.

The Great White Way’d a million made
With Courtisan, Girl Crazy, Penny Arcade.
Court is in session amidst the Depression
When the music of Gershwin and Porter played.

Off the stage cameras were the rage
Apropos for this photo sage.
A pro posing for pix, he still rather have tix
For the Dodgers, even at that age.

Lopez, Vance, Babe Herman’s stance
Anyone can sense his trance.
Consensus was he’d root because
From fourth place “dem Bums” would advance.

At Ebbett’s Field the Dodgers reeled
Wilbert Robby’s fate was sealed
But will Burt Lahr become a star?
He’s flying high, and Kate Smith’s healed.

O’Keefe’s horse’s skull might have seemed dull
A trial and error job, something to mull.
But try Alan’s test, nature’s very best
Is the Bouncing Bear, or the first gull.

It’s been sixty years and his life now appears
Magic as Aladdin’s, or some other seer’s.
A lad in the city, paternal and witty
Happy birthday, and let’s have three cheers.