Sunday, October 19, 2014

To the Boy Whose Father Is Not Upset with Him, Only Curious [poem]

To the Boy Whose Father Is Not Upset with Him, Only Curious
Do not, under any circumstances,
tell your father what you have done.
Let him figure out misbehaved
from your teacher’s note on his own.
Let your teacher tell him.

Look, we have a nice day outside,
unseasonably warm and breezy,
and Halloween is coming,
and you have an ice cream cone
in your hand, and if there’s anything
I’ve learned, I’ve learned not to ruin
perfect moments with unchecked honesty
because there’s plenty other times for that.

For example, some day soon your eyes
will be honest; they’ll scatter to the side
as a woman (or a man) is passing,
some extra bit of their skin exposed,
then your eyes will turn back
to your boring companion, your lids
lowered with truth, you’ll look up
and there will be Caught wearing
a red face like a flipped caution sign
as you’re scooting your car into the road.

Yes, and there will plenty of times for
giving up information, plenty of interrogations,
I suspect, in your future.  Your dad,
he’s doing a good job, establishing trust,
making you feel safe.  He is lying.
I’m telling you, he’s lying,
because whatever you’ve done,
if you’ve done it well (my guess, you have),
your father will tumble over your deed
like a rock, skin his soul’s knee.
He’s tough, don’t worry, but for now,
for the rest of this day,
lick your cone and bless him with wondering.


Such a lovely day for donuts. 
This is another one of those poems where the story is fairly evident.  This is a rather prose-y poem, so that helps.  I do get a metaphor in there that I’m rather proud of – the thing about the caution light and the car. 

As I mentioned in another recent blog, I found my inspiration for this poem while I was at Dunkin’ Donuts blogging the past couple day’s poems.  There was a family sitting at a table near by, and while the son enjoyed an ice cream cone, the father interrogated him, gently, using every manipulation possible, about misbehaving at school.

Eavesdropping is excellent for poets. 

I came home and wrote out some advice for the little guy.  Not that he needed any.  He was handling the situation very well.  Almost eerily so.  He gave up nothing.

I would like to note, importantly, that his poem presumes that the misbehavior was of the more innocuous sort that was fodder for Mark Twain’s novels and stories.  Not stuff that would lead someone to fear a future, miniature psychopath or sexual predator was in their midst. 

I would also like to note that I am not now, nor have I ever been a parent of an actual two-legged child. 

I’m sure the advice I give in this poem is horrible, and wrong, but such is the liberty of a barren woman – giving bad advice to children in poems because it entertains and suits her. 
This poem was written on October 19, 2014 as part of Tupelo Press's 30/30 Project.

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