Poem for Poetry Thursday

Happy Poetry Thursday!

I don’t write much about my work at a college, but commencement is on Saturday. Today is the day the marketing department formats the commencement booklets. Specifically, we read all of the names of the graduates and check for misspellings and correct order. Can you say tedious? So I won’t be around much today. Hope you read your poems tonight.

Bear with me on this first draft.


I remember my father’s worst days.
His clumsy mythology crosses my mind
tonight like shadows on a cave wall.

My father, who grew up on Bank Street,
was an angry little heap. Went to school
with a layer of newspaper inside his holey shoes

the only thing separating him from the streets.
His knuckles rough like the back of a penny
from punching the brick wall behind his house.

Imagine the growl of hunger,
the fire of poverty. Can you even begin
to comprehend my father

watching his father dig a ham bone
out of the garbage to use in a soup
for that night’s dinner?

I should forget, as you have tried,
your sad, perennial stories
but they grow and bloom inside of me

that tight bud of sorrow
opening in me like a fist
over and over again.


Your rough drafts always sound like finished pieces to me!
Oh, January- that was so powerful... I cannot even begin to comprehend...
Lisa said…
Very well written. I liked this poem. Reading it, I felt how strongly you wished he hadn't had to go through those struggles. Thanks for sharing it.
jz said…
January --

Good poem.

I would cut the first stanza -- so many first stanzas in rough drafts are just a way to get into the poem. That's what this one reads like. It would be better to just jump in.

There is a little confusion on this readers part as to who the "you" is. I think I would prefer to just keep it between your father and you.

Strong stuff.
January said…
Thanks for the feedback, Jim. You're right--I was really in love with my first line, which tells me I need to lose it.

Hmmmm ... one of these days I hope you'll participate in Poetry Thusrday.
paris parfait said…
I think it's a fantastic poem, January!
jim said…
Dang, January, really good stuff here.

Other than the pruning, this seems nearly set to me. This poem feels very much like a set, with two or three other poems nearby, ready to be written, have already been written.
I had come here last night and left a comment. Blogger seems to have gobbled it up.

Somehow this reminds me of my dad who
went through somewhat similar situations. Beating the odds, he made it.

I like it raw.
Catherine said…
That is very powerful, I'll go back and look at the first stanza in light of the other comments, but it certainly packs a punch at the end.
January said…
Thanks for the feedback, everyone!
bookbinds said…
Thanks for sharing. I always enjoy reading your poems. What particularly struck me about this one is how it captures the idea of a shared, generational sadness and how individuals inherit and are linked to the losses, anger, and suffering of their ancestors. The last line was particularly powerful with the image of these shared stories gaining strength:
"perennial stories
but they grow and bloom inside of me

that tight bud of sorrow
opening in me like a fist
over and over again."

Popular Posts