My goal was to have this written for my son’s second birthday. But, although I began working on this poem with six weeks to spare, it is now about six weeks late. This mostly is due to my still learning how to manage and maximize my creative time and energy as a first time parent. Well, first the poem, then a few thoughts:
|Lines to My Son|
There is a stillness in your eyes
that not a lifetime could disguise,
never mind the mere two years
we’ve shared of laughter, play and tears.
My child, when you cast your smile,
I am compelled to gaze a while
on all the features of your face,
each contour radiant with grace.
I know that sometimes you will cry,
that pain and grief will make you sigh,
but in the end, I hope your share
of peace will far outweigh despair.
I hope that as you grow, a sense
of purpose—meaning—will condense
within your soul until a spring
of inspiration purls and sings.
I know that you will face arrays
of challenges throughout your days,
and sometimes with a heavy heart,
you’ll want to fold and fall apart.
But, son, I hope you’ll come to see
that what is gained too easily
is rarely valued at its worth
and offers only fleeting mirth.
I hope you’ll learn to meet with poise
each obstacle that life deploys
and overcome it with that grace
I see forever in your face.
I know one day that love may lunge
from shadows at your heart and plunge
its ancient kris between your bones
and leave you wretched, wracked with moans.
But if this end should come to pass,
I hope in time you’ll rise at last
and realize deep within your soul
that love is nurtured—not controlled.
I know that fear, with silent tread,
may one day stalk your thoughts till dread
swells acid-like within your chest
and melts all courage from your breast.
If that lean creature ever learns
your scent, I hope that you’ll discern
the way to throw it off your trail,
ensuring all its efforts fail.
I hope you’ll come to see that fear
pursues those thoughts within the sphere
of all the worst of what could be
until it mauls reality.
I hope you’ll learn to contemplate
your blessings and appreciate
the least of things that come your way,
the smallest moments of your day.
I know that sometimes loneliness
may chill you with her gelid kiss
until you crave for any fire
to burn away your dread desire.
But, son, I hope you’ll make your peace
with solitude and grant her lease
within your wide expanse of self
where she reveals one’s inner wealth.
For solitude and loneliness
are only sisters in the sense
that each reflects an attribute
of isolation, but in truth
the two are not at all the same;
one sister lights and keeps the flame
of contemplation, but her kin
instills an anguish deep within.
I know that loss will find your door,
and though you ask, entreat, implore,
he’ll barge into your private place
and carve a lasting, empty space.
I hope, despite the swells of grief
that crash across that jagged reef
of raw emotion deep inside,
you’ll find a way to bear the tide
and build a lighthouse on that shoal
whose spinning beacon may console
with brighter moments from before
you lost the ones that you adore.
I hope that you will find the strength
to mourn your losses, then at length
stand tall, gaze deep into the night,
and let acceptance fill your sight.
I hope with vibrant health you’ll live
till all your hairs turn gray and give
you such a sagely countenance
you’re loved by all with reverence.
I don’t go into writing a poem like this thinking, “This is going to be written in iambic tetrameters using an aabb end-line scheme.” For me, the pattern emerges on its own, usually in mind as I explore the opening lines and stanzas before writing anything down. Once a pattern emerges, if it emerges at all, I usually stay with it. By the end of the fourth stanza, I decided that variations on rhyme suit the end-line scheme just fine, but that I would also still attempt to use rhyme whenever possible.
There are five great difficulties explored in this poem, five challenges that I myself have faced and endured throughout the years, mostly stemming from internal issues—perhaps psychological in nature. These are giving up, feeling betrayed, anxiety, loneliness, and loss. There’s more to the poem than this, but as it has occurred to me that some my overwhelming difficulties with these personal challenges may be genetic in nature, it felt important to me to try to use this piece to pass on some of what I’ve learned about them in the hope that he will one day read and gain insight should he find himself facing similar struggles.
I have no way of knowing if I’ll live long enough to offer him such insights as those I’ve tried to express here by the time he has need of them, and so this poem. Even if I do, it may be that by the time he’s dealing with some of these struggles himself, he’d be more open to taking my thoughts into consideration from this form anyway, written when he was still a toddler.
My father was gone by the time I was 10. I have no idea what insights he may have had for me. I have no real indication that he even thought of what kind of person I might be as an adolescent or as an adult. As my son grows up, I would like him to know that I thought of him—that I thought of him as a teen, as a young man, as an adult in the middle of life, as an old man nearing the end—that I held hope in my heart every single day that he would have a good life and enjoy the bulk of his days clear to the end. It would have meant something to me if my father had such foresight. I hope this may mean something to him.