April 4 Poem

Today’s device:

Confessional Poetry: Poetry that reveals crucial material about the personal life of the poet. The term was coined by critic M.L. Rosenthal to describe a loose movement in contemporary American poetry that began to focus on intimate details of the poet’s own psychic biography.

from The Poet’s Dictionary: A Handbook of Prosody and Poetic Devices (by William Packard).

I want to take the opportunity here to say that I love my mother and I loved my father, may he rest in peace.  While that fact is not completely irrelevant, it is also not controlling.  Pastor Scott W. Gustafson wrote in his book, Biblical Amnesia, the following:

This commandment [to honor one’s father and mother] is the only one that has a promise associated with it.  The promise says that, if the 12 tribes of Israel honor their mothers and fathers, they will live a long time in the land that God is giving them.  Israel was, in fact, relatively successful in keeping this commandment.  The Bible itself is testimony that they honored their mothers and fathers.  The Bible tells stories of their mothers and fathers.  It does not lie about these people.  We see them “warts and all.” Yet, the Bible interprets these people in relatively positive ways.

[emphasis mine]

In poetry, we see people “warts and all” too.  I could write much more on the topic, but I prefer not to do so.  Only this:  There is redemption and forgiveness in poetry, but there is also lamentation; all of those things are legitimate.  Before there can be any of those things, however, there has to be emotional truth.  This poem attempts to describe the truth as seen by a 12 year old girl.  It was first published in Cairn, vol. XXXV.

1973
(by Suzanne Baldwin Leitner)

7th grade.
Nights, I was like a ham radio operator
after a bombing.
I’d abduct Mama’s square black
AM/FM transistor from the bathroom
right before bedtime,
then stick it under my pillow.
My cold contact with the outside world.
I’d wait ’til Daddy got really drunk
and loud before I’d turn it on, saving the batteries.
My favorite stations played the songs
I’d heard the summer before at the VFW
swimming pool – “Tell me You’ll Love Me for a Million Years”
“You’re so Vain.”  “Moonlight Feels Right”
and I’d think about the boys
I couldn’t have because I looked
too much like they did.
But sometimes I’d listen to AM: the news
or a radio preacher
and it was all scary.
Worse than what was going on down the hall.
Some scientist said in 1984, just eleven years away
there’d be a Jupiter Jolt. All nine
planets would line up like empty
beer cans in a row
and the gravitational pull
was going to whipsaw Earth
out of orbit like a stone from David’s
sling. There’d be a winnowing
of chaff from wheat and I just knew
I’d get left behind
because I wasn’t favored.
But I’d get through somehow
and anyway by 1984 I’d have my own radio
or maybe I’d keep Mama’s.
I just prayed, God forgive me,
Daddy wouldn’t be there too.

5 thoughts on “April 4 Poem

  1. Dawn

    beatuiful in that sad, haunting, melencholy kind of way, so descriptive… what you don’t know, til you know…

  2. 1973….I remember it well, and nobody thought you looked like a boy. You were way too petite for one thing, and the cheerleading outfit way too feminine. Love you Suz. Deb

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