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Jun 4, 2016 · The Live POETS Society

Gentleman of the POETS club. I enjoyed this article and thank you for mentioning my father. Slade often mentioned the POETS club which met, of course, on Fridays, to justify its scurrilous acronym. If any of you retirees are old enough to remember him, you are indeed old. That he raised a rhyming son may have been a source of embarrassment to him for all I know, but here is a rhyme about the good old soul I scribbled just this month. Carry on!

Sumac

It’s several sorts of
Shrub or tree
Of the genus Rhooz.
It’s autumn leaves…
So crimson…
Enchant the
Woodland views.
My Father’s yard
Had sumac
Sixty years ago;
In all my childhood
Memories,
The flaming
Sumac glow.
But one day
Father startled me
With a lexical surprise.
He said,
“You must say
Shoo-mac, son;
The spelling rule applies,”
I’d always called it
Soo-mac, and all
My friends had too,
And though my dad was
Never wrong,
This seemed
Somehow askew.
I knew he was a
Wordsmith and
Loved our
English tongue.
But shoo-mac?
Shoo-mac!
It hurt the ear;
There must be
Something wrong.
“‘Spelling rule’
What spelling rule?”
I challenged him
At last,
And knew at once
I’d broke a bond
By speaking back
Too fast.
Then he turned
His grey eye on me
With that steady
Gaze he had,
And I felt at once
The shame that comes
From challenging
Your Dad.
And speaking slowly
Like a lord,
“The rule is this,” he said.
“S must be sounded
As sh
When followed by a U..
As in ‘surely sugar,’ son.
The rule is fast and true.”
“Surely sugar!”
He had me!
His evidence ironclad;
And here a silly
Teenager
Had dared
To test his Dad.
But he was a
Merry prankster,
And if I’d had a clue,
I’d have known
When Father said a thing,
He might be
Testing YOU…
And in the entire
English tongue of
S-u pronounced as shoo,
He’d done his
Homework carefully
And found the only two.
I could have countered, I
Suppose, with
Summer,
Surf, and
Sun,
But “surely sugar”
Had me by
The brain,
The Dad,
The tongue.
So…
I said “shoomac” then
For years,
And earned the ridicule
Of peers,
Never noting
Submarine,
Superman,
Surmise,
Sullen, suet, suck,
And such…
Supreme, surreal,
Surprise.
Nor had Father
Told a lie.
He never would,
Of course.
“Shoomac” is acceptable,
If you check your
Webster source.
So I never doubted
Dad again,
And that has
Served me well.
For he taught me
How to hunt, and fish,
Play chess, and scout,
And ski,
And how to read,
And love good writing,
Both prose and poetry…
How to drive,
And how to garden and
Prepare the soil for seed,
And how to love my
Bratty sister,
And care for those in need.
Now he’s been gone
These twenty years,
Dead at 93.
And still those grey
Minerva eyes
With love
Look down on me.
He was surely sugar,
And surely sugar
He will be,
While each autumn
Blazes crimson
In my sumac,
Shoomac tree.

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