Echoes

Sometimes I hear his voice
in mine: my father’s turn
of phrase, a sudden, plaintive
note, a particular tonality,
a hint of affected modesty.
I hear it when I read a line
aloud, or start to preach
my version of the gospel.

Sometimes, more startling,
I hear my own voice in my son’s:
a raising of the timbre to sound
a note of protest, indignation,
the anger carefully concealed
behind a conventional politeness
or a charming smile, the quick,
ingratiating deference of tone.

And thinking this, I wish now
I had heard my grandfather,
who died before I could recall
his voice. From his stern picture
I imagine it firm, but gentle,
the master copy of the voice
from which my father’s
was imprinted, and my own.

And I hope now, too, to live
for long enough to hear in Joe,
my grandson’s voice that echo
of the generations, father down
to son; and perhaps not least
for him to recognize in his,
when he is grown to manhood,
some echo of the sound of mine.

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