Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sam and Dave in a Jetta

It's 7:30 on a cool, August evening. The sun is setting through the pine trees on our little piece of land. We are sitting in our ten year-old VW Jetta, playing spaceship. I am wearing a pair of 3D glasses taken from a movie theater and deposited in the door compartment for moments like these, I suppose. Bradley, now four and a half, asks if we can listen to his Kidz Bop cd. I agree, on the condition that we go one song apiece, back and forth, his cds, my cds. Amazingly, he agrees. He rocks out to his synthesized dance tunes. I go all Sam and Dave: "Wrap It Up." The tepid response I expect never comes. Instead, as soon as the horns kick in, Bradley screws up his face like a rock star and starts shaking and jumping all over the interior. I get cocky and try "Soul Man." He hits eject. I do my duty, whooping with him through "Who Let the Dogs Out." And, limited as I am by distance from home and little living space, I pull out the only other possible cd, Boston. He can't deal with the acoustic opening of "More Than a Feeling," so hits the skip track button, and practically rockets through the roof when he hears the opening chords to "Peace of Mind." By the time the electric guitar joins, he's slamming against the dashboard, his safety seat, the back doors. He's rolling down a back window and pushing open the door, swaying in the grass outside the car like a possessed see-saw. I look over my shoulder to see if my wife, working inside the trailer, is catching any of this. When we come back to tell her, she says, "Of course I heard you. The whole town heard you." 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tribute to My Son's Summers

Here's an ode to the accent my son will hear on his summer vacations, and to the 15th anniversary of the classic movie "Fargo."

Great Lakes
Barn yard on my father’s farm:
The car alarm! I’m seein’ stars.
Bob’s at the bar with Carl and Marge.
It’s not far, but parking’s hard.

And, Oh, God, what’s that large mark
on your forearm. Fooling with the dog,
now that wasn’t too smart.
Your head was always hard.

 Too many movin’ parts. We’re dodgin’ rocks,
but you got a big heart, big as Scot’s.
His snow-thrower’s big as an ox.
Now relax, and let me charge the box.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Pre-Parent Vision

Friends, here is something I wrote just before the advent of our son Bradley. Is this a metaphorically prescient grasp of parenthood?

Their Little Ears are Sensitive

Consider this when you plan your trip.
Stuff your little ones with cotton balls,
to keep their ears from popping.

Their little bums are sensitive.
Lay in loads of aloe for the bumpy trip
over the Ambibian mountains,

because their little feet are expensive.
If they shatter, the sound is startling.

Their little hands are starting to reach
for the controls. Slap them down
and scream louder than they can.

Their little grips are like vices
you have when they aren’t looking,

and your little face is a pliable board.
They hold you in some kind of place.

Their little minds are like sponges.
Remember to wring them out.

Their little heads wobble,
so secure them, with tape if need be,
or teach them to focus

their little eyes on a single finger
you flash like a knife
you should never leave out,

because their little wills
are stronger than yours.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Yelling and Screaming

I used to save much of my yelling and screaming for the page. Over the last year or two (Bradley's third and fourth years on Earth), I've been doing more of it aloud and more often seeking peace (understanding of screaming and yelling's root causes?) on the page. Or is that a misconception? Does anger with a child's irrational stubbornness or with one's own inability to cope with it translate into rage on the page? Or does it really turn the process of writing into a meditative walk by the holy pond with its silent, scheming koi?

I've always thought that distance from raging emotions was a necessity for writing anything other than spoken word-style poetry. But what if the writer/parent lives in a state of constant emotional rage, which roils either above, below, or well below the surface of that pond? What if this rage subsides only when the child's raging hormones lead him/her away from the shadow of the host fish? Or what if at that point it just explodes?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Fourth Parentish Poem (Mother's Day Edition)

Hi, Mom!

            For Denise, on Mother’s Day

Someday you will be on the receiving end
of the athlete’s face-flash, thumbs-up wave
to the force responsible for all he is today.

Now you are the hands that wipe face and tear
chicken into tiny strips on plastic plates
you wash and stack three times each day.

Five years hence you will buy spiral-bounds
and comic book lunch boxes soon lost
or left for dead on schoolyard steps.

Sometime next year you will exhale,
even when you’re not alone or free
to finish a report or nap on a cloud.

At a certain age, you will wonder again
if you really are a mom when the proof
lives elsewhere with another pretty blond.

This is the game you’ve joined late,
looking for yourself laughing in the stands,
seeing you’ve always been on the field yourself.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Third Parentish Poem

At Three

He asks my wife
“Why daddy not here?”
when she takes him
to the park or school.
We see a grasp
of human need
and motive. Why,
we do not agree.

He does not know
why we work or play.
He does not know
people often move
cold to his whim.
In this delusion
we are one blood.

My wife starts the car
and pulls away.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Another Parentish Poem

You’re Gettin’ There

After five summers of foot-messenger days
and countless 4 a. m. pots of joe over
hastily written studies of single lines,
after wandering drunk and American through
Bolivian, Portuguese, Indian shanty towns, dust
sopping my collagens, after millions of meetings
between my jogger’s knees and pot-holed asphalt roads,
after weeks of meetings in laminate conference rooms,
discussing plans still at doodle stage,
after thousands of months aboard commuter trains
smelling of backed-up porta-john and rancid pizza,
after five servings of fennel sausage and fake crab meat
at each of ten annual family feasts,
after twenty-one walk-up flats, one co-op, one condo,
one private house and two upstate vacation plots,
after two gerbils, four guinea pigs, a goldfish,
a ferocious Persian cat, five thousand walks
of a fluffy dog with inch-long fangs and attitude,
after three squally marriages and four overcast live-in trysts,
after two years of hormone injections
and an adoption across three continents,
after the endless discovery of poopie diapers,
after the same three episodes of a pre-school puppet show
over and over again, after a majority of sex-less months
and resignation to limited success
my mother eyes my gray strands, creased cheeks, blank eyes
and announces, “You’re gettin’ there.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A New Parentish Poem

Bathing a Samoyed

My son is bouncing on his bed, because

it is new bought, because

he does not want to bathe, because

he wants to show me he is not the dog

that passed away St. Patty’s night five years ago.

His voices for penitence, anger, revolt

surrender to ghosts that never expunge

the wars and disasters from cable news.

I remember Samoyeds squirm constantly

but most dogs accept the bath as part

of the normal cycle of canine life.

I’ve coerced him into the tub.

The instructions also advise to drag.

Dog living. My boy slips under the suds,

his hair like the bygone sailor’s,

guileless siren to himself.

When eyes sting he’ll let me know

while I remember walking him, the lift

of the leg and daydreams through magnolias

to the insight that it was that moment

we’d spend our late years aping. I was

doomed to early death the night he dropped

to the pavement, licked his cancerous paw

and sighed, remembering then to ask myself

Am I watching him die?, my son

rolling on the carpet now. Playing with blocks

and trucks is so much harder than you think

once the rest is long behind you, once

compared to tasks with clear-cut steps.

When the fur feels free of soap, remove

your samoyed. He will probably jump out gladly.

My son is bouncing in front of clouds

of deadly steam from containment walls

and revolutionists leaking blood.

Samoyeds readily show disdain.

I am silent. It is 3 p. m. and I want to sleep

through his first dog and the rest of his youth.

He lays his head on my chest and asks,

kicking me in a stretch for the remote,

Daddy, now can we watch my show?