Archives for posts with tag: fathers and sons

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Congratulations to Chris Forhan — author of the poetry collection Ransack and Dance (Silver Birch Press, 2013) — on the June 28, 2016 release of his memoir My Father Before Me by Scribner, prestigious publisher of some of the greatest of the great (F.Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, Kurt Vonnegut).

BOOK DESCRIPTION: An award-winning poet offers a multi-generational portrait of an American family—weaving together the lives of his ancestors, his parents, and his own coming of age in the 60s and 70s in the wake of his father’s suicide, in this superbly written, “fiercely honest” (Nick Flynn) memoir. The fifth of eight children, Chris Forhan was born into a family of silence. He and his siblings learned, without being told, that certain thoughts and feelings were not to be shared. On the evenings his father didn’t come home, the rest of the family would eat dinner without him, his whereabouts unknown, his absence pronounced but not mentioned. And on a cold night in 1973, just before Christmas, Forhan’s father killed himself in the carport. Forty years later, Forhan “bravely considers the way he is and is not his father’s son” (Larry Watson), digging into his family’s past and finding within each generation the same abandonment, loss, and silence in which he was raised. Like Ian Frazier in Family or Frank McCourt in Angela’s Ashes, Forhan shows his family members as both a part and a product of their time. My Father Before Me is a family history, an investigation into a death, and a stirring portrait of growing up in an Irish Catholic childhood, all set against a backdrop of America from the Great Depression to the Ramones.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chris Forhan is the author of the poetry collections Forgive Us Our Happiness, winner of the Bakeless Prize; The Actual Moon, The Actual Stars, winner of the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize; and Black Leapt In, chosen by poet Phillis Levin for the Barrow Street Press Book Prize. He was raised in Seattle and earned an MA from the University of New Hampshire and an MFA from the University of Virginia. He has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and two Pushcart prizes. His poetry has been anthologized in The Best American Poetry 2008 and has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, New England Review, Parnassus, and other magazines. He teaches at Butler University in Indianapolis, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Find My Father Before Me by Chris Forhan at Amazon.com

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State Road 13
by Barry Harris

Riding back from a Thanksgiving Sunday town
in a fifty-two Packard
leaving the pumpkins and apples
appropriately in two places,
the town and my child’s mind
as I ride farther down the road into a new moment.

The November sun hanging at the edge
of the brown dirt farmland.
My father slowly driving and telling
of some other sunset years past
and I not yet thinking I could hold
all the knowledge of the sky in my small head.

That road aimed straight as a lance
between two towns except for one gracious curve,
a mile-long tender arc
which I loved for its simple feeling of change.
Along the way corn shocks stood like field sentinels
among the dim-lighted homes and derelict schoolhouses
standing like Hoosier shipwrecks.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author in his elementary school photograph at age seven in 1955.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written remembering Saturday afternoon drives with my father to my grandmother’s house about 20 miles away down Indiana State Road 13.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barry Harris is editor of the Tipton Poetry Journal and has published one poetry collection, Something At The Center. Barry lives in Brownsburg, Indiana, and is retired from Eli Lilly and Company.  A graduate of Ball State University with a major in English, Barry was founding editor of Tipton Poetry Journal, which has been published in print and online versions since 2004. In 2009, he helped found Brick Street Poetry, Inc., a nonprofit organization that now publishes Tipton Poetry Journal, hosts Poetry on Brick Street, and sponsors poetry-related events. His poetry has appeared in Saint Ann’s Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Night Train, Hiss Quarterly, Cherry Blossom Review, Flying Island, Lily, The Centrifugal Eye, Flutter Poetry Journal, Wheelhouse Magazine, Houston Literary Review, Snow Monkey and Writers’ Bloc, and in these anthologies: Twin Muses: Art and Poetry and From the Edge of the Prairie.

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BONDING
by John Grey

The old man and I sit at the diner counter
picking ashes out of the toast.

Where else would I be on a Saturday morning
but in the shadow of the Alpha fisherman
watching him gulp down coffee
while I sip through the thick tangy scent of orange juice.
Next time, I’ll insist on a cup of joe instead.

I hold myself up by the elbows
so as to feel so much older
while Sally the waitress
unbraids the early morning crew
with her usual salty sass
and Sam the cook shouts something to my father like
“save some of them big fat trout for me.”

I’m looking forward to damp grass, river bank,
and the slow curdle of brown water
around two taut catgut lines.

It’s a good deal for me.
There is a chance that, even at twelve years old,
I can haul in the bigger catch.
A hook is a hook
and a fish has no clue
who among us deserves most tribute.

Better this than suffering him
sinking baskets over my head
or busting my pride on the checkerboard.

The old man pays the bill
and we drive off in his truck.
I wonder how many more times
the two of us will be doing this.
It’s the start of a season – fishing season sure –
but with another, unspoken definition
going for it.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author as a schoolboy in 1963.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Grey is an Australian poet and U.S. resident. His poetry was recently published in New Plains Review, Mudfish, and Spindrift with work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Sanskrit, and Louisiana Literature.

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Watching My Old Man Kick Someone’s Ass
by Richard Vargas

i was three maybe four
looked out the screen door
there he was across the street
people were standing in a circle
he and another man were in the middle
my old man must have been in his early 20s
lean hard and mean
fresh out of the 82nd Airborne
the other guy was soft
a pendejo who never left the block
my dad was throwing his shit
left and right
his opponent was backing up into
the crowd losing his footing
but afraid to take his eyes off
the crazy cholo coming at him
it was over before it really started
my old man victorious and cocky
i remember he looked from
across the street
saw me standing in the doorway
our eyes met and i knew he had
just shown me something important
i took a mental snapshot
so i’d always carry
the moment with me

now
when i want to strike out
unleash the blow we all
have within us
i write a poem

and i know
he would
approve

SOURCE: “Watching My Old Man Kick Someone’s Ass” appears in American Jesus: Poems by Richard Vargas (Tia Chucha Press, 2007).

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at six months with his father.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is a mental photograph of my father, who overdosed on heroin shortly after my tenth birthday. He was incarcerated most of the time, it seems, but the few lessons he tried to teach me are etched in my memory. Poetry helped me remember and get over the bitterness he caused with his early exit.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard Vargas was born in Compton, California, attended schools in Compton, Lynwood, and Paramount. He earned his B.A. at Cal State University, Long Beach, where he studied under Gerald Locklin and Richard Lee. He edited/published five issues of The Tequila Review, 1978-1980. His first book, McLife, was featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, in February 2006. A second book, American Jesus, was published by Tia Chucha Press, 2007. His third book, Guernica, revisited, was published in April 2014 by Press 53. (A poem from the book was featured on Writer’s Almanac to kick off National Poetry Month.) Vargas received his MFA from the University of New Mexico, 2010. He was recipient of the 2011 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference’s Hispanic Writer Award, and was on the faculty of the 2012 10th National Latino Writers Conference. Vargas will facilitate a poetry workshop at the 2015 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference, and he has read his poetry in venues in Los Angeles, Chicago, Madison, Albuquerque/Santa Fe/Taos, Indianapolis, and Boulder. Currently, he resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he edits/publishes The Más Tequila Review, and will facilitate The Más Tequila Poetry Workshop this July at the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference.

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My father never drank
by James Ross Kelly

My father never drank
While he was working
When he was not working
A bottle of Jim Beam appeared
On the dining room table like a Roman pillar
And when it drained down another appeared.

My father was generally working
Sixteen hour days in the oilfields
Seven days a week until
A well came in or there was a dry hole
In between in the moving of the oil derrick
He was off, & he would drink, in the
Mornings there was beer at Lyle’s
& later at the St. James Hotel
Where there might be a card game
& I’d drink cokes and stare at the
Huge painting of Custer’s Last Stand

On a barstool I’d sit & his pals
Would call me little Jim Beam, I took no
Notice of this but liked the smell of stale beer
& the swagger of men, & sway of women
Brave enough to come in
Sometimes I’d get sent to Mel’s Drug store
With enough change for a root beer float
& in the afternoon’s he’d hit the harder stuff

When my father decided
To fish or hunt
He’d not drink during these adventures
Fishing was sport combined
With a notion of battle I suppose

I remember a trip to Arkansas
The ‘56 Buick, a trailer, tents
Tent poles, fishing poles a four-hour drive
& we arrive to put out a fish trap, trot lines
& set up camp, Coleman stove made just up
In Wichita, & the next morning I helped him
Seine back waters for minnows & perch, & snapping turtles
My grandmother loved

This was catching, & fishing poles came out
As an afterthought & after a couple of days
We brought the bounty of catfish and drum
Back for my grandmother to cook & Jim would come out &
My father & stepmother throwing rules aside did battle
My father had been through the Battle of the Bulge
She came from some place on the other side of the County
That was worse

PHOTOGRAPH: Joseph E. Kelly (left) and James Ross Kelly, around 1955, Winfield, Kansas, in the family’s backyard with a display of channel catfish and other species, and a grain elevator in the background. To the left is a corner of a minnow tank, denoting  the residence of serious fishermen.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: James Ross Kelly lives in Northern California. He has been a journalist for Gannet, a travel book editor, and had a score of labor jobs — the in-between jobs you get from being an English major. Most recently, he retired as a writer-editor for the Forest Service, where he spent the better part of the last decade in Alaska. He started writing poetry in college, and after college continued and gave occasional readings in the Pacific Northwest during the 1980s. His poems have appeared in Westwind Review (Ashland, Oregon), Open Sky (Seattle), Siskiyou Journal (Ashland, Oregon), Don’t Read This (Ashland, Oregon), Table Rock Sentinel, (Medford, Oregon), Poetry Motel (Duluth, Minnesota), Poems for a Scorpio Moon & Others (Ashland, Oregon), The Red Gate & Other Poems, a handset letterpress chapbook published by Cowan & Tetley (1984, Vancouver, B.C.), Silver Birch Press (Los Angeles), and so glad is my heart (Duluth, Minnesota).

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EARLY SUNDAY MORNING
By Edward Hirsch

I used to mock my father and his chums
for getting up early on Sunday morning
and drinking coffee at a local spot
but now I’m one of those chumps.
 
No one cares about my old humiliations
but they go on dragging through my sleep
like a string of empty tin cans rattling
behind an abandoned car.
 
It’s like this: just when you think
you have forgotten that red-haired girl
who left you stranded in a parking lot
forty years ago, you wake up
 
early enough to see her disappearing
around the corner of your dream
on someone else’s motorcycle
roaring onto the highway at sunrise.
 
And so now I’m sitting in a dimly lit
café full of early morning risers
where the windows are covered with soot
and the coffee is warm and bitter. 

SOURCE: “Early Sunday Morning” appears in Edward Hirsch’s collection The Living Fire (Knopf, 2010), available at Amazon.com.

IMAGE: “Cup of Blue” by Sebastian Lartiste. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Edward Hirsch is an American poet and critic who wrote the national best seller How to Read a Poem. He has published eight books of poems, including The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems (2010), which brings together thirty-five years of work. He is president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in New York City.

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CANYON DE CHELLY
by Simon J. Ortiz

Lie on your back on stone
the stone carved to fit
the shape of yourself.
Who made it like this,
knowing that I would be along
in a million years and look
at the sky being blue forever?

My son is near me. He sits
and turns on his butt
and crawls over to stones,
picks one up and holds it,
and then puts it in his mouth.
The taste of stone.
What is it but stone,
the earth in your mouth.
You, son, are tasting forever.

We walk to the edge of a cliff
and look down into the canyon.
On this side, we cannot see
the bottom cliffedge but looking
further out, we see fields,
sand furrows, cottonwoods.
In winter, they are softly gray,
The cliffs’ shadows are distant,
hundreds of feet below;
we cannot see our own shadows,
The wind moves softly into us,
My son laughs with the wind;
he gasps and laughs.

We find gray root, old wood,
so old, with curious twists
in it, curving back into curves,
juniper, pinon, or something
with hard, red berries in spring.
You taste them, and they are sweet
and bitter, the berries a delicacy
for bluejays. The plant rooted
fragilely in a sandy place
by a canyon wall, the sun bathing
shiny, pointed leaves.
My son touches the root carefully,
aware of its ancient quality.
He lays his soft, small fingers on it
and looks at me for information.
I tell him: wood, an old root,
and around it, the earth, ourselves.

NOTE: Canyon de Chelly National Monument was established on April 1, 1931 as a unit of the National Park Service. It is located in northeastern Arizona within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation. Reflecting one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes of North America, it preserves ruins of the early indigenous tribes that lived in the area, including the Ancient Pueblo Peoples (also called Anasazi) and Navajo. The monument covers 83,840 acres and encompasses the floors and rims of the three major canyons: de Chelly, del Muerto, and Monument. These canyons were cut by streams with headwaters in the Chuska mountains just to the east of the monument. None of the land is federally owned. In 2009, Canyon de Chelly National Monument was recognized as one of the most-visited national monuments in the United States. (SOURCE: wikipedia.org.)

PHOTO: “Canyon de Chelly” by Ansel Adams (1941)

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HOT SUNDAY AFTERNOON
by Gerald Locklin

My son has kept his Sunday afternoon
Free to go hear jazz with me.
I swim from noon to two,
Lift a few weights,
Pick him up at quarter-to-three.
I put Sketches of Spain on the
Tape deck of the Taurus as we
Head north on the San Diego Freeway.
He reads his Hemingway—mine too.
Coming over La Cienega, haze and
Glare rise from the whitened basin
But the hills of Hollywood still
Catch one’s breath. Miles moves
Into Solea and my son puts down
His book, broad boulevards almost
Deserted, a corner taco stand,
The side street rows of California
Bungalows: at times L.A. is still
The town of Philip Marlowe,
James M. Cain,
Nathanael West if he had not
Been a New Yorker.

***
“Not Sunday Afternoon” appears in GERALD LOCKLIN: New and Selected Poems (1967-2007) (Silver Birch Press, 2013), available at Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gerald Locklin is a professor emeritus of English at California State University, Long Beach, where he taught full-time from 1965-2007. He has published fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews prolifically in periodicals and in over 150 books, chapbooks, and broadsides. Recent books include a fiction e-Book, The Sun Also Rises in the Desert, from Mendicant Bookworks; a collection of poems, Deep Meanings: Selected Poems, 2008-2013, from PRESA Press; three simultaneously released novellas from Spout Press; and a French collection of his prose, Candy Bars: Le Dernier des Damnes from 13e Note Press, Paris. Event Horizon Press released new editions of A Simpler Time, A Simpler Place and Hemingway Colloquium: The Poet Goes to Cuba in 2011; Coagula Press released the first of two volumes of his Complete Coagula Poems; and From a Male Perspective appeared from PRESA Press.

Photo: “The Famed Hollywood Sign from Bronson Canyon” by Corey Miller, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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THE DRIVERS
by Len Roberts

My five-year-old son rides the twelve-volt
   yellow car into the field
of wildflowers, beeps his horn
at the cat who zigzags madly
   before him,
switches on and off the low-density
   lights, turning around
just once to see I am still
   following.
It doesn’t matter, though, he won’t
   step on the brake,
won’t swerve around the first tier’s
   slope, instead goes
over it, out into the fields
   of straight spruce, where,
as he veers in and out of the rows,
it’s clear how much he is the driver
   my father was, speeding
to eighty miles an hour at the upstate
   New York winter curves,
the madman who whirled the Golden Eagle
   truck onto Lake George
ice in early April, drove it the entire
length trying to make a perfect figure 8.
The one who never once told me to slow down,
   to go straight,
who gave me two of his last four dollars
   an hour before he died,
blowing wheels of smoke into the yellow
   kitchen air, singing
with Tommy Edwards, Please Love Me Forever
into the idling engine of the night.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Len Roberts (1947-2007) was an American poet and teacher. His awards include a National Poetry Series award (1988), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Award for poetry (1991), two awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and two Fulbright Scholar awards. His many poetry collections include Black Wings (1989), The Trouble-Making Finch (1998), The Silent Singer (2001), and The Disappearing Trick (2007).

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“That night, after the movie, driving my father’s car along the country roads, I began to wonder how real the landscape truly was, and how much of a dream is a dream.” Don DeLillo, AMERICANA

Photo: Candida Godson