Here’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 traveling 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.
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.