Friday, January 8, 2010

Daddy Is a Dead Man


The naked branches of the sycamore tree
are your arms, stiff and brutal, swinging at me.

You never wrapped those limbs around me
and pulled me to your trunk, simply holding me.

You stood alone and harsh on the landscape
of my life, implacable and unable to shelter me.

In all the long winter of my youth you stood
with your sticks, whipping me, claiming to love me.

You were my god, stately but diseased within.
You blamed me, and your switch delivered me

From some mysterious sin. I endured my growing
from your roots, until your death released me.

______________________________________

I conducted a difficult interview today. She's the local lady citizen of the year, heralded for her volunteerism and giving back to the community. Usually I warm them up with a few jokes and a quick photo or two and a laugh. I sat there for two hours and left there knowing no more about her than when I left. She wants to give kids a safe place to play while their parents work, but she wants to do it behind the scenes. I can say it in 23 words. How will I every stretch it out to 1,000? Ah, but that's what I do best: ferret out the others, the ones who will say nice things about her and maybe tell a tale of two.

Today's poem is the result of a lifetime in the clutches of someone who didn't have a heart for kids. I am what I am because of his training, and because of the training of a thousand other people who had a heart for a lonely kid. It is a triumphant poem because I did survive and he taught me on that harsh landscape that you make it or you break on your own power. I loved him mightily, and he once held me in his arms when a horse bucked me off. I will be forever grateful. You get back on that horse and you ride until he bucks you off no more. Cheers!

23 comments:

Alan Burnett said...

My first thoughts were that the poem must have been painful to write - in a way it was painful to read. But then I caught the feeling of release you talk about. Well done, you.

the walking man said...

There are better ways than standing aloof from the children.

Dave King said...

It sounds the wrong thing to say, perhaps, but I really warmed to this poem. The metaphors are not only powerful in themselves, but powerfully used. What it records is utterly terrible, of course, but the poem itself is fabulous. I can imagine learning it by heart to have it always with me - like a treasured stone from the beach.

Beth said...

Wow! That poem could be written about my grandmother. She grew up hard and has become a bit harsh as a result. It was her survival mode.

Very well written and thought provoking.

Brian Miller said...

this one hurt a bit...i have stood in those trees...

Secretia said...

Keep getting back on the horse. Persistence works!

Karen said...

{{Chris}}

Unfortunately, as children, we love our gods no matter what they do to us. I know they have their own demons, but my heart breaks for the children.

Berowne said...

Check out Robert Frost's "Birches" for a great similar poem. Happy new year!phypech

Shadow said...

i know parents such as this... it's sad. breaks a spirit still so young...

Kim A. said...

An honest poem that has the message that is hard for me to acknowledge. But you do so graciously and simply. I cannot watch any movie or show these days that portrays any harm or hurt to children, or animals, or people. I watch sci-fi where all the big, bad creatures get blown to bits in the end. Weird, huh?

evalinn said...

I can relate to that poem.

Good luck on the writing!

Poetikat said...

Oh wow! This makes me so sad. Thank God you did survive, Chris and I'm sure your story will aid and inspire so many who live this too.
Great, great poem!

Dianne said...

I love the bare sycamore, but will not look at it the same way again.

Hmmmm
it is good to be behind the scene

Di

Enchanted Oak said...

This poem was cathartic to write. It released me from the power of big guy battering a little guy. I was appalled when I wrote it because, after all, my father is dead and cannot correct my memories.
When I decided to go to college, Mom and Dad did a 180 and went wild with praise for me. From the age of 19 to 28 we had a wonderful decade. It was miraculous how much love was abundant in that household.
People can change. I certainly changed. I became the first child in the extended family to attend college, and I graduated summa cum laude. I gave him something to be proud of before he died of brain cancer. He gave me many hugs in those later years. The one that meant the most was the hug when I got bucked off the horse. Go figure.

Kristin H. said...

People DO change. I believe that.

You are a magnificent writer.

Syd said...

I found my father aloof also. He was a man who didn't suffer fools and had little patience for whiners. I was neither around him. And yet I loved him also. Very much.

garden-variety drunk said...

i identified you with your poem, particularly about finally being released from all of that past.

thank G-d we don't have to always wait for the other person to die to get relief : )

Mama Zen said...

Amazing, amazing poem.

Karen said...

Who knows what he endured as a child? NO EXCUSE, but really, he probably didn't spring fully formed this way.

Prayer Girl said...

This was a beautifully written post - the poem and your description of it.

God bless you.

PG

lakeviewer said...

Powerful!
This is raw beauty!

Tall Kay said...

What a beautiful message of unconditional love and forgiveness. You are so good at what you do. I'm anxious to hear more of what you learn of the old woman!

Akannie said...

Little girl with the powerful words... I am so grateful that you are my friend.

xoxoxox

Albert Einstein Quotes