Poem of the Week, by Michael Pearce
My poems podcast, Words by Winter, can be found here.
Yesterday a friend told me that when his family tracks mud inside he goes silent and forces himself to be calm while he scrubs it away. He doesn’t want his children to go through what he did. As he spoke I remembered yelling at my little kids and hating myself for it.
And I remembered a year ago, when a young father and his little son meandered by my house. The boy desperately wanted a toy on the lawn across the street. He went into full meltdown, screaming and thrashing, but his father knelt down and spoke softly.
You really want the truck, don’t you. Do you want to talk about it?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
His father picked him up and held him while they talked. By the end of the block, he was calm. When I read this beautiful poem I thought about my friend’s determination not to repeat his father’s patterns. I pictured that young dad and how he soothed his son. It gives me hope for the future.
My Father Got Beat, by Michael Pearce
My father got beat
but he never beat me.
His skinny frame would tighten up,
he’d start to shake with a seething rage
at my errors, my arrogance,
he’d clench his bony fingers and say
“I’ll sock ya” but he never did.
My father’s father drank like a drunk.
He hit my dad,
called him a sissy,
infected him with T.B.,
threatened him with a knife,
and sometimes just disappeared
for a week or longer.
My dad drank at night,
drank beer and worked.
A quiet man, he put in long hours
and never talked about what hurt.
He told me that when he’d worked
Emergency at County General
he’d seen what beatings do to kids
and then he knew he’d never beat his.
He didn’t say much about himself
but he told me that.
You’ll hear guys say
they’d take a bullet for their kid.
You’ll hear guys say a lot of stuff.
My dad stepped between a bullet and me,
stopped that mayhem
from ripping through his chest and
into the hearts of the ones he loved,
did it at a cost to his angry soul,
did it for me and my sister and brother
and for what is decent.
One time I got up the nerve
to tell him I loved him.
All he could say was thank you.
MICHAEL PEARCE’s first collection of poems, Santa Lucia by Starlight, is forthcoming.
Words by Winter: my new podcast