Years Later

KindergartenHere’s a poem that was published last June in the Tic Toc anthology along with two other poems of mine, “Recurrents” and “Second Hand,” by Kind of a Hurricane Press. You can order the anthology in print if you’d like, or read it online in the first link.

The poem is also out there travelling around with a bunch of his friends in a chapbook manuscript that I am hoping will win one of the several contests it’s been entered in. But since the poem was previously published there’s no harm in sharing it here.

The majority of the poems in that chapbook are childhood memories, and memories of my own children growing up. This is truly the darkest one of the bunch. It’s also terribly personal. And while the speaker in any given poem may or may not be the poet, or at least not the poet exactly, this one is truly confessional, the sort of piece that is harder to hear than it is to write. And honestly it’s a bit close to the bone, and maybe for that reason I have worried that it might not be as good as much of my other work.

But what a crime against not just ourselves, but art in general, and humanity at large, that in our effort to not be thought “too sentimental,” we so often abandon personal emotion altogether in modern poems. We try to stand off, detached, and while the lines may sound smooth, our poems turn out like soulless word games. Sometimes risks like this need to be taken, and that’s all I’ll say on the subject for now.

I wasn’t sure I would record this, but I felt it was possibly important to give it a try.

Years Later

I watch—a kind of primal instinct.
In the yard my sons are swinging,
laughing, while at the window
I wash dishes—mindless clinks
of silver and glass. Eyes scan,

ears listen for a cry that
isn’t laughter. When we go out
I hold their hands in parking lots
and stores. I cannot help the child

I was. Someone should have
been there. A brother stood
shaking at the bottom of the stairs,
hoping what had  been done to him
was not being done to me. Sometimes hope

has no feathers. Adults were in the house,
laughing, drinking. It was cute, they said,
the way we became pals. You asked me
to show you where the bathroom was.

I feared every visit after.
When, for other reasons, you
were finally locked in jail, they asked me
cautious, but not careful questions,
clutching faith, so I let them believe
that nothing happened, that I was okay.

It doesn’t hurt, not anymore. But now
I watch, hold hands, stay close, call often.
Perhaps in doing so I reach past
decades to the boy, trembling beneath
blankets in the dark, hearing a voice,
a shoe on the stair,
a fluttering on the window sill.

©2014 by David J. Bauman, originally published in the Tic Toc anthology, Kind of a Hurricane Press.

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21 Replies to “Years Later”

  1. Excellent poem, David. I particularly like the line “Sometimes hope/ has no feathers.” I thought that was such a perfect, sensitive reference. It really holds the piece together for me.

    I’m so glad you shared this. I always enjoy reading your work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Jeremy. That means a lot. Originally the poem had an extra line or so at the end. I seem to have trouble recognizing when my poems end these days–continuing to write after the poem has finished. 🙂 But I dropped the final line/s, because it hit me that the “fluttering on the window sill” was a stronger ending, echoing back to that hope and feathers reference. We owe a lot to Miss Emily, don’t we?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Yes, we certainly do. I had a wonderful experience reading Dickinson to my daughter about six months ago. She was only about 8 months old at the time.

      I was up early with her and we were sitting on the couch and I started reading her Dickinson. She listened with rapt attention and laughed. Actually laughed! As I read the poems to her. It was tremendous.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I am looking for that phrase, but according to Mr. Google, a lot of people have said variations on it. Jack Spicer, Denise Levertov, and possibly Jorie Graham. And there are a lot of articles to read.

      I think some people take it in a sort of mystical way, but I look at it more like letting your mind explore, giving freedom to your subconscious maybe. Let it come out and the editing and polishing can come later, and even then, make sure you weren’t trying to bend your materials into a shape they didn’t want to go into.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I should add that I agree with you about the dilemma of sentiment. I don’t like how hollow modern poems can feel when they hold to this “rule.” I don’t know how we write about pain if we don’t allow ourselves to feel it or our language to emote.

    I also think it’s terrific that you read your work aloud. I admit that only very recently have I come to grasp the importance of hearing a poet read their own work. And you do it well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a tough balance. My favorite writing professor once gave me a compliment that I hold dear, and try to live up to as much as I can. She said I had a way of taking my “poetry seriously, without becoming maudlin.” I think if we are working in the humanities, we need to remember that being human is a holistic experience. It is cerebral as well as physical, as well as spiritual, or if we prefer, emotional. The difficult balance is finding images and words to depict the emotion without resorting to cliche. Similarly, I wasn’t sure that I could read this with the right balance in my voice. There is nothing worse than a dramatic reading that bubbles over too much and makes you feel icky and uncomfortable. Not that art cannot make us uncomfortable, but shock tactics and cheap heart string tugs do not constitute art.

      So, what I am saying is that your words hit me in the best, deepest place. It means a great deal to know I am doing my job. Sometimes it means getting out of the poem’s way. I cannot remember who I heard say that, but I love the concept. Thank you, Jeremy.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. My pleasure, David. You are very welcome.

      I really want to read more of your work and I sincerely hope your chapbook wins one or several of those contests. I would love to buy it.

      Liked by 1 person

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