for my father

The night before you died
I dreamed a wooden ladder
rose straight into the sky,
propped against only a wall of air
yet sturdy on its feet, like you
in that faded old photo, tall and lean,
knee-high in a field of ripening beans.

I wasn’t with you at the end
but I know that when you left your bed
you mounted that ladder, young again,
body light and nimble, clambering up
the rungs worn smooth by shoes
and stained from use like wooden spoons.
After a few uncertain steps,
your long legs took them two at a time,
a rapturous climb to glory,
up past the crowns of maples and oaks,
up past the tops of barns and silos,
up past the soaring vultures and hawks,
up through the thin cool veil of clouds.
Now and then on your way to the stars
I see you pause upon that ladder,
look down from the heavens,
not to gauge how far you’ve come
but to gaze with love on what you loved.

Play notes: My father, Lynn Allen Cole, died of COVID-19 on January 3, 2021. I started this poem the next day, based on a dream I had the night before he passed. (Dad, I know you didn't much like poetry unless it had to do with farming. Maybe you can tolerate this one?)