Welcome to a poetic and philosophic blog about the struggles of life and relationship.

“The ambiguity of life exists in every creative process. In every creative process of life, a destructive trend is implied; in every integrating process of life, a disintegrating trend; in every process toward the sublime, a profanizing trend.”(Paul Tillich, Ph.D., from The Meaning of Health, 1981)

Life cannot exist without the essential possibility and existential reality of death. Life is impossible without the daily, chaotic struggle against death... against the unremitting threat of entropy and nothingness. As Tillich again informs us, “Life must risk itself daily in order to win itself, but in the risking it may lose itself. A life which does not risk death--even in the highest forms of the life of the spirit--is a life poorly lived." This willingness to risk ourselves for greater life is the key that opens the door to the wellspring of creativity deep inside of us... that wellspring of transformative vitality that propels us through the struggle of death into the richness and renewal of new life.

"Creativity is 'the elixir of life' that heals and transforms life. Through the creative process we enter that 'sacred place,' that zone of evolution where the world lights up to itself as we light up to the world. It is here, in that 'holiest of holy' places that we are reunited with the waters of the wellspring of creativity, The Source of the 'River of Life' from which all creative energy and vitality issue forth to be manifested as new life. Through every creative act, life fulfills itself. Through every creative act, we transcend the mortality of our separate ego-self of I and enter into the realm of immortality to become one with our contextual self as Thou, as a self-realized collaborator in creation. Through creativity, we are delivered from the chaos of illness into the dynamic order of new life."
(P. Donovan & Herb Joiner Bey from The Face of Consciousness, 2006)

Please join me on this courageous venture of life and "enter into the realm of immortality," the realm of dialogue and relationship by poetically sharing with this community, your struggles to live... to "nullify the unremitting recurrences of death" through the continuous recurrence of birth. Through dialogue and relationship, the Face of consciousness is seen, recognized and witnessed. It is your Face, my Face, the Face of all life, the Face of our God. Thank you, Patrick.

FATHERS: A Poetic Discourse from Fathers About Fathers and Children

A Father's Death

It is interesting, the alchemy a son experiences at the death of his father... the quick-silver of a little boy is instantly transmuted into the precious gold of a grown man no matter what age he might be at his father's passing. My good king has just died and this prince must now take his throne. I pray I may honor it with the dignity and courage with which he has.

Fathers hold a special place for sons as they do for daughters. But the place for sons is different. It's a "guy place." It's a place filled with integrity, courage and honor; 30 second anecdotes for living and endless "rules of the road"; bedtime stories of heroes and dragons and little boy things... timeless remembrances of a father's love for a son such as pocket knives and baseball cards, old stamps and elementary school report cards, cigar boxes of high school letters and a father's day card from an eighth grade hell-dell. When a father dies, the little boy things he held so dearly for his son also die leaving only a man standing alone on his own... a man with 30 second anecdotes of life, stories of heroes, and integrity and courage all of his own.
p. donovan

A Daughter's Gift 

Of all human relationships, I think there are none more sacred and special than the relationship between father and daughter or mother and son. With that said, I walked my 25 year old daughter down “the isle” this summer to officially “give her away” to the care and protection of another man more than half my age. Unless you have experienced this first hand, you have no idea the act of faith this requires of a man… of a father. He is letting go and relinquishing the most important and meaningful “charge” of his life to the charge of another man with much less life experience and expertise. But more than this, I was letting go of the most precious gift I have known because no other human life has or will ever touch a man's heart so deeply and profoundly as his daughter's. No other human life, with just a pouty smile, will so easily convince him to act like clown in public; talk like a baby; dress up in funny cloths and do goofy dances; drink imaginary tea out of tiny tea cups while sitting at a table surrounded by stuffed animals and baby dolls; have meaningful conversations with those same stuffed animals and dolls and finally; weep like a child in front of hundreds of people while walking down "the isle" with a grown woman. No other life will so confirm his “purpose”… his “raison de etre” with such grace and gentle conviction.
Thank you Erin.

p. donovan ("daddy")



What have our fathers kept for us in some secret place we have not yet discovered? 

I know of "things" kept in secret places. 

As a son:
I know of disheveled sock drawers that smell of my father, full of old letters, faded baby pictures, crayon-colored father's day cards, broken watches, rusted pocket knives, and elementary school report cards... sacred souvenirs of a life's story... moments of contemplative remembrances that sweeten a father's soul and confirm the value of his work.  

I know of moldy boxes on forgotten shelves of a garage full of old metal toys and tattered-cornered children's books... the sources of many night time stories of secret treasures and hidden places in themselves, stories told between the lucid moments of a father's hard worked day and the snores from sleep's incessant demands on his time. 

I know of closets full of old "shiny" suits, worn shoes and cuffed pants that jingle with the sound of pocketed change... the remnants of forgotten possibilities... priceless handouts often used to win a little boy's heart so excited to see his father home. 

I know of a courageous man's secret heart places where a little boy still misses his mother who died and left him alone when he was nine... where a grown man still weeps like that child when he remembers the horror of war and "his buddies" who died beside him. "Why not me?" He still holds the guilt. It has aged him.

I know the darkest of secret places where an aged, brittle body with a demented brain holds the soul of a loving man captive in the terrifying darkness of aloneness and the lovelessness of a memoryless, Alzheimered existence. There is no little boy here... no drawers...no boxes... no closets. No stories anymore.     

As a father:
I know of disheveled sock drawers that smell of my son full of old Pokemon cards, pencil erasers, half-eaten hard candies and stones from the beach. 

I know of disorganized closets full of game boards and boxes, bats and balls, favorite sweat shirts that no longer fit and shoes of all kinds for all manner of events all thrown together as if in a blender to be mixed into a smoothie of a little boy's delights.

I know of testosterone places no longer secret and hidden where little boys are sacrificed and men are erected into platinum statues of arrogant gods who have all of the answers but none of the right questions and none of the grit.

And I know of the darkest of secret places where a son's heart grieves the slow, indignant death of a father and a father's soul aches at the emptiness of his son's room. No little boy here any longer... no father as well... no drawers, boxes, closets or bedtime stories anymore.       
p. donovan

My Son Is Gone

He left today;
fourteen years old and angry, 
to live with his mother.

I gave him everything 
I knew how to 
give a little boy,
"my little man:"

Bedtime stories of dragons and wizards;
pancake breakfasts and blueberry smoothies;
bicycles, backpacks 
and overnight camp outs;
squirt gun wars, tickles 
and wrestling for the changer; 
late night movies cuddled up on the chair;
holding him close 
when he was shivering with fever;
instructions on bathing and planting a garden,
on hammering a nail and chopping the wood;

I clothed him and fed him 
and changed most of his diapers.
I taught him the rules of living with others,
of compassion and love
and standing for Truth.
I gave him my life
the best I knew how.
But today it was different,
it wasn't enough.
There was something more
that he wanted
something more than my blessing.

He wanted my wounding 
So I gave him "that pain"...
that pain a man carries 
for the rest of his life.

© p donovan, 2010

The Shadow of Light

I came to Ireland to be alone again in some very powerful places... to realize again the deep Celtic heart of this land... of my heart and the heart of my father(s). I came to Ireland to heal a broken heart and face down the "beasts" of my own shadow and the shadow of my father(s). It was a powerful experience facing them both at the same time alone in the land of their origin... in the dark, heavy, melancholy and unremitting rain and dampness of this proud yet so deeply wounded place. Driven by my personal inquisition and the genetic beasts of my inner narrative, I found myself at the rectory door of an Irish priest and the conversation of a lifetime. I then began to understand the darkness... its power to transform things and invite the light... no, its power to demand of the light its presence... demand the light TO BE. Light emerges from the darkness... always overcomes yet contains the darkness within itself. This is the blood-truth of the Celtic soul. This is the blood-truth of life.
P. Donovan
Dublin, 2007

And now I watch my 
father die a slow death. 
This proud, loving man 
who once held me so 
gently in his arms and in 
his memory, is now 
locked away in some 
inaccessible corner of a deteriorating brain 
tormented by his own beasts and the shadow of his 
fathers. He no longer sees me or knows me, and I can't 
reach him, touch him, or save him any longer. I can't 
help the one man who so loved me he would give his
life for me. I can only watch helplessly as that 
meaningful life and all it contained as my father, 
disintegrates away in front of me.
© p donovan, 2010

"Chasing Ashes in the Snow" written & performed by P. Donovan ©

Some men speak of glory,
others speak of pain.
While old men tell their stories,
young men die in vain.

Who am I to listen?
And who are they to know…
voices without reason,
ashes in the snow.

Now I turn unto my father.
And I look into his eyes.
And I see a man who was wounded
by the politics of lies.

And his pain cries out for justice
as it rages in my soul.
But I cannot give it reason
and I cannot make it whole.

Seasons come and seasons go.
Old men die and children grow.
And here we are together passing time
chasing ashes in the snow.

Who knows where I am going?
Who knows where I have been…
a lover and a fighter,
a priest who lived with sin.

My lives they pass before me.
But the scars they still remain.
I am my father’s keeper.
And I have my father’s pain.

I will not live in silence.
And I will not live in shame.
My life cries out for reason.
And it will not cry in vain.

Don’t speak to me of glory.
Don’t tell me any more lies.
Just speak to me of honor
with loving in your eyes.

© P. Donovan, 1994


  1. Pat-
    I weep for you and for him. Time will come when he'll see that your love was not, is not selfish, and is meant only for him, his growth, his nurturing soul. You have, in a true, real sense, died and given your life for your son. Do not bemoan your sacrifice. The pain, justly is an offering to the universal love of the Father for all of us (who at one time or another, reject and wound Him). It is agape'.

  2. Chrissie said: June 12 2010

    It was you my son
    I nurtured and loved
    As we watched the birds in flight
    And th ebutterflies flirting in the honeysuckle
    of our lives
    Don't leave..please stay
    Don't close the door angry
    angry will never do
    This door will never lock
    But stay ajar for you
    You walked away with my soul
    My spirit and my heart
    I remain attached
    A Dad and his son
    Never to part
    Sharing is a virtue
    I thought I taught you well
    I thought I could
    But did not think I would
    Have to
    But this turn and time
    Is for you and your mother
    There will never be another
    Son like you
    I miss you.

  3. Chris
    It's a wonderful feminine touch to the emerging masculinity of your son and his relation to his father.

  4. Patrick -

    The topic of fathers and sons reminds me of this poem. The "go to hell" early on is italicized in the original, but I can't figure out how to make that happen in this format.

    - Paul


    I am lit by another fire of anger just
    a flame shy of bluest rage, the dry kindling
    of my gonads and mean history torched
    by the sparks from a bad day, banked
    by tiny petty scratchy things, a son who today tore
    another tether from his mind, telling me to my nose
    to go to hell, and a mendacious friend, and a headache
    and such.

    Pinched by law and that black fear
    that accompanies flirtations with primal things, the rage
    leaks into my feet, sets me walking with fury down
    this dirt, desolate road at the hot peak of day. I walk
    in a near trot until my legs and lungs give way
    and the fit dissolves, sipes through my skin
    as sweat soaking my hair, my shirt.

    Spent, I take shelter from the sun
    under the canopy of the only tree for miles, a gnarled
    and sparsely-leafed oak more dead
    than alive. I squat within its thin shadow, watch
    a scrawny jackrabbit jerk across the road, watch
    two turkey vultures high up etching
    their needs into the white hot sky, sense now and then
    a faint stir of air that slowly wicks the sweat
    from my face arms neck, my skin
    tightening as it dries, leaving a film of salts
    and this troubling fume curling into my nostrils.

    The smell of men is on me now, the smell
    of labor, of Amish men close beside me
    shoveling steaming manure into the wagon, of old
    and nasty Enos Gibson with me in a hat-high trench
    pitching dirt all day, and the thick heavy cloud of male
    whenever I opened a locker room door or
    rifled my father’s pockets looking for a nickel, of
    public toilets at rest stops, in bars, and welling up now
    from a hamper full of my son’s clothes, a smell for which
    there is no metaphor cruel enough or beautiful enough
    anywhere at hand.

    Then I notice that I am not alone here
    under this sickly tree, am joined now in its weak shade
    by a circle of other men, my furthest
    upright ancestors, dusty and naked and black
    from their lives in the sun, purple scars
    and seeping wounds here and there like brocade
    on their wiry bodies, all sweetly stinking, squatting
    with me in a circle speaking languages
    I cannot understand, drawing in the dirt
    with the points of spears a confusing map
    to the meaning of this, their presence with me
    in the incomplete shade
    of this dying tree.

    Joseph Keller McNeilly

  5. Sometimes, Paul, I think it is "the stench of men" as I ponder the patriarchal-dominant history of our culture... its greed, its genocide, its hubris, its rape, its pillage, its social stratification, its domination, its "fuck you"-isms, its.... Then I think of my father... his scratchy beard as he held me and his bedtime stories. Then I think of my grandfather working in his beloved garden... the smell of his pipe as he instructed me lovingly and patiently on the life of plants and the beauty of the earth. Then I think of my son... the lilt of his laughter when we would tickle each other on the couch... the feel of his little hand in mine grasping for reassurance and guidance... the smell of his bedroom from the accumulation of toys and rocks and little boy cloths on the floor. Then I think of me... the loneliness of being a man in this world without a tribe of elders... the grief of so much lost especially the innocence... the struggle of providing so much to so many for so little. Then I begin to understand better the smell of men. It is the smell of rage... "rage against the dying of the light."

  6. My Father’s House

    It is a quiet walk to my father’s house. In winter I can hear the aching of the trees as I pass underneath. Their iced limbs click upon themselves† as the wind rises and falls. It seems I make a new path through these woods every time I visit him.

    The house stands upon a hill and I climb with head down, never seeing until I am right upon it. I bring with me these same questions. Every time. They will follow me home in the darkness. But now, they are anxious to return to their source.

    It is cold now and has been for a hard winter. I have tracked through these woods more often than before, and still I am a stranger to them still.

    I stop at the foot of the hill. I grieve for a girl who weeps inside for her lost father. She saves things to show for him should he ever fill the doorway again. A favorite doll, an OUTSTANDING! arithmetic test, a sports trophy.
    Standing here, ‘What have I kept for my father?’

    As I turn to go I notice the dark wind as swept clear my footprints. It seems I make a new path through these woods every time I visit him.

    - JMC 1993

    † Robert Frost, Birches

  7. Thank you JMC for reminding me of that path to my father's house. It is strange how I too seem to make a new path each time I go to visit. Yet, at the same time, that "new path" always feels so familiar... so old, ancient and well travelled.

    Do you think our fathers have ever walked that path through the woods to visit us when we were not watching for them or expecting them? There is something about that path that is too well trodden.

    It makes me wonder what our fathers have kept for us in some secret place we have not yet discovered!

  8. Saying Goodbye to my son....

    Father and son relationships are a curious thing. They come into the world and we immediately start thinking of the ways we will teach them the things they need to know to make it in the world and then pray that we do not screw it up and lose them somehow.

    How to be strong in body, mind, heart and soul.
    How to be kind to others and to self.
    How to honor the mother and the feminine.
    How to be patient and understanding.
    How to show them the world is a wonderful place.
    How to...how to...how to...

    Then the day comes when they take all you have tried to teach and they go into the world on their own, leaving you behind. This is of course the way it should - and must - be although this does not make it any easier.

    My son leaves me within 24 hours. He is not going down the street to his first apartment or across state lines to some new job or scholastic adventure. He is leaving the country. He is going someplace where I cannot just hop in the car and go visit or rush to his aid should he need it. I mean, he still needs me, right. Maybe it is I who still needs him?

    He has been right there beside me for 23 years. We have argued and fought, giggled and laughed, agreed and disagreed, hated and loved. He has been my child, my hiking partner, my sparring partner and the best friend two dogs ever had. He has allowed me to teach him and in return taught me so much. He has been the best friend a son can be to a father. I have watched him become the incredible person he is and been there every step of the way.

    Now I have to say goodbye. I have to say goodbye to his presence in our home. To the smells of his cooking (this kid can cook), to the arguments between him and his sister, to his wonderful sense of humor, to the deep conversations and the trivial ones too, to training martial arts with him, to more things then I can possibly wrap my mind around.

    Now it is not as if he is disappearing from the world. In this wonderful modern age we live in, I will be able to see and speak to him from time to time. However, the person that stands before me today is gone forever. The world and his own desires will now shape him. When he returns he will be someone I know in my heart but no longer in my mind or my hands. He will not be the young man going abroad to study and learn. He will be fully in the world himself no longer needing my legs to help him stand. I feel like I am loosing the better parts of myself, but I know that is just ego talking.

    Saying goodbye to my son is the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

    Waiting for the man to return may yet prove harder.