Curled on my lap like a cat
my nephew colors airplanes and helicopters,
potent images from the imagined life
of his father, a military man
who disappeared without leaving anything
written, without ever hearing his wife
call out in childbirth, or his
only son mouth the family name.
It’s uncanny the resemblance
between this child and myself; a stranger
would think he was mine, yet
I’ll surely never be called father
or husband by anyone in this life –
as his grandmother blithely explains:
Your uncle’s the artistic type.
Concealed in evening light I carry
my half-asleep nephew up the stairs
to his bed, wondering if I too abandon
a son being who I am, his mother’s
bachelor brother, a gay man, a writer.
I bend to kiss the boy’s cheek,
then turn out the light.
I will never author a living child.
Nearing forty, possessed at last
of the right to an entire bed,
an entire house, an entire life to myself,
I fill my pen with ink
and wander out to the wooden bench
under the flowering plum to write.
Kafka died childless,
a bachelor surrounded by books
he never saw published; yet even
in the dead of winter his grave’s
alive with loving flowers –
as if among the yard of markers
only he had living progeny.
Peter Pereira’s poetry (which I’ve blogged about before) combines, at its best, an easy conversation-ness, reminiscent of Carver, with a great deal of warm intelligence. It is poetry that you connect with, poetry that touches you both because of the way Pereira draws you in with his personal tone and because he is good at finding the precise image or scene that will make the idea come alive.
Today’s poem, taken from his Hayden Carruth Award winning collection Saying the World always reminds me of that stanza in Yeats:
“Pardon that for a barren passion’s sake,
Although I have come close on forty-nine,
I have no child, I have nothing but a book,
Nothing but that to prove your blood and mine”
– W.B. Yeats ‘Responsibilities’
It is a poem I like not because of any particular brilliance in what Pereira is saying it, but because of how real and heartfelt it sounds, because of the way Pereira so casually lets the reader, for one moment, not only into his family, but also into his thoughts. And I like the way Pereira takes two lovely but disparate images (his sleeping nephew, Kafka’s grave) and connects the two, as well as the slow degrees by which that chain of thought is developed.
P.S. Oh, and Pereira has a blog as well.
P.P.S. I just realised that we don’t have a single Raymond Carver poem on poi-tre. This will not do.