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Dad, Not Mad, Scientist

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For my father, Joseph P. Spalding

I’d watch from the tall green chair
while he’d fiddle with tiny things
over his workbench, his
magnifying glasses over his nose,
oscilloscope looping or blank
under the basement window.

Perhaps he’d solder, and I’d
watch as a miniature silvery
bead of liquid metal ooze
attached this or that to his
little green circuit board.

The neighborhood kids called
him a mad scientist, but he
was not mad, had two patents
in his name, made millions
for his aerospace bosses
at a time before the inventor
got a piece of the action:
A Pulse Generator and a
Receiver including Wave Guide
T with Impedance Thereof
at Intermediate Frequency,
a radar altimeter used by all
commercial aircraft for years.

I asked him once why he
never went to church,
that being important to me
at the time. “I’ve read
the Bible front to back,”
he answered, and that
summer, I, eleven years old,
did the same. These days
my faith is more like his,
in the possibilities
of the real, where magic
can still be found by
those who seek it.