Saturday, January 21, 2012

Poetics: Somewhere along the Border


I am not the guard at the border,
     but the one they bring the body
        not for the autopsy

but whats left to sew up after
     attempting to put back together
        some semblance of a life

& there are nights my fingers bleed
     where the needles nicked,
        my skin not thick enough
        not always

i order chicken salad on wheat, comfort
by choice, with potato chips and a pickle
spear, root beer---not noticing my friend's

selection, focus being what he is saying,
concerned with decisions his daughter is making,
wondering how to handle while
allowing her to feel trusted & empowered ,
not see him as "one of those parents"

"what if i am over reacting?
        what if i push her away?
                what if..."

"she comes home pregnant," i interrupt, "how cool
will you be then?"

Still stuck in the tension between being her friend
and giving parental direction, as if she needs one more
person unwilling to listen to what she is really saying,
and I refuse to give permission to shirk the responsibility,
providing a place to lay the guilt when it happens

Will opinion polls & popularity ratings
keep you warm on those nights?

"Isn't it worth a conversation?"

A reuben. He ordered a reuben, which the waitress
delivers, sits untouched beside chips, but no pickle---

it crunches with each bite i take, sour on the back
of my tongue, as i watch his eyes for more than
a night of American Idol & ice cream

absently rubbing old callouses 
     on the tips of my fingers,
        just to feel their texture.

Today @ dVerse Poets, Claudia has us crossing more than our Ts for Poetics. So get ready to make a run for the 'border' come 3 pm EST when the poetry goes live and in living color.

92 comments:

Grace said...

a nice capture of the conversation ..i think listening more than judging and telling others what to do is much more appreciated.

also, i am not swayed with ratings specially when it comes to election. i like to understand the issues and vote on what and who i think is best ~

happygirl said...

This hit so close to home for me. Good writing. You captured the conversation and the tension. I had this yesterday, without the chicken salad. Comfort.

HisFireFly said...

I love the way you came full circle

back to the fingertips, calloused but stitching still...

Mary said...

Excellent poem, Brian. The tension within the poem was palpable. I agree, some parent-child (young adult) talks need to take place. This is one of my favorite poems of yours with its strong message and strong writing! It will stay with me.

icedgurl said...

trekking your superb blog! keep blogging and inspiring people!

cheers!
..TREK..

kaykuala said...

Conversations on what can and cannot can be exhausting. Worst when someone dear is involved. Pressure is obvious. Your verse showed very well how unsettling it can be!

Hank

Hilary said...

You have such insight and an amazing way to express it.

♫♪♥PhilO♥♪♫ said...

Your poetry has such a different rhythm :) Its always interesting!

oceangirl said...

The message is serious but still, it makes me want waffle.

cestlavie22 said...

I like how relaxed and conversational this is! When I write poetry I tend to fall into rhyme whether it be slant rhyme or not- I just always do even when I am aiming for free style. I really enjoyed this!

Magpie said...

Powerful stuff, Brian. Some have forgotten that parenting is teaching and guiding, not friendship and entitlement.

Pauline said...

Ah, that alluring line of friendship we wish to walk with our children. That comes later, when the child is grown, if only parents could wait.

As always, your words, so carefully chosen and so carefully placed, draws us in and let us be there. You're like a movie director with words, you know.

Ruthiey said...

I was just talking with someone about two daughters who had run away and their hoping the younger one would come home. Parenting seems to involve so much pain. I'm glad you were honest with him.

SueAnn said...

This is exactly how a conversation goes too!! Minds wandering from past, present and possibilities!!
Hugs
SueAnn

Pat Hatt said...

Trying to remain friends and act cool
More or less may make one look like a fool
Especailly giving American Idol a view
Reality TV is just ewww
But yeah line many seemed to be blurred on
Or don't want to pick a side then blame everyone else when a problem begins to dawn

That Janie Girl said...

Lovely.

I like how you weave the conversation into the fabric of it all.

Or, maybe, the conversation is the fabric.

manicddaily said...

I love the callouses--in general, I love the undercurrent of conversations, the background noise as it were, such wonderful context highlighting what's inside. K.

Cinner said...

Sometime all we can be is an ear, frustrating though it may be. have a a great weekend.

Pseudo said...

Ah, the minefield of parenting.

Still going back to the beginning of the poem and figuring it out. You got me thinking very early this morning Brian.

LadyFi said...

Excellent piece of writing... it's not easy being young or giving advice.

Rene Foran said...

love this...doing things out of routine, making choices that may not be popular and empathizing.

Very well done using familiar objects.

Natasha Head said...

Brilliance in atmosphere, brilliance in stage setting, brilliance in lunch time menu choices and the battle that comes with raising the young while pondering needle pricked fingers and pickle spears. Brian...you're brilliant. Just two guys, trying to get by with the weight of the world on their shoulders...thanks for letting us glimpse this unfold, as the questions that are raised by your words know no borders.

hedgewitch said...

So hard to give advice that people will take--of all the things we give so freely, advice is the gift most people throw down like a cigarette butt--I love the details in this bri--the chicken salad sand, the pickle, weaving in the complexity of real life with the conversational gas--listen to your kids, stop pushing them off when they talk, and maybe they'll actually talk to you, trust you. Fine work, my friend.

Claudia said...

oh those conversations...i had many of them with my kids...and they didn't always like what i said...still they knew i didn't allow some things because i just love them too much..and as long they know, they are more willing to accept.. parents need to be uncomfortable at times and they need friends like you, asking uncomfortable questions when they're at their wisdom's end... yep..love it brian

Teri M said...

Talking about parenting challenges can be so difficult. I think sometimes just listening is perfect.

kweschn said...

Lovely!! :)

tony said...

Lives At The Boundary.

Adam said...

nice poem

lifeisaroadtrip said...

Oh, I love Reubens and also the way you involved us in this conversation.

Interesting that you mentioned Thich Thanh. I had recently come across a quote from him in another blog that I have been mulling over. Thanks for the book tip. I will check it out.

Friko said...

How do you get all of human life into your verse? You must be the closest observer of human frailty.

Sue said...

Holding the line isn't easy, but they do thank us for it later. (And that tastes sweeter than the sour preceding.)

An immovable parent is such a pain. But feeling safe? Pure pleasure.

=)

Laurie Kolp said...

Fingers and hands tell one heck of a story, don't they? It sounds like you bring some experience to the table... what a good friend you are. I can taste that pickle now.

Sub-Radar-Mike said...

This played out like a movie in my mind, well done Brian.

Daydreamertoo said...

So difficult to know that fine line between listening and not judging, and helping, or, giving an opinion and not helping. An awkward moment for sure. Written so poetically :)

Fred said...

great illustration of the conversation as filtered poetically. Wonderful write.

Pat said...

Great writing again, my friend. It's hard to listen and to offer advice - not to pass judgement.

Betsy said...

Perfect. Why is it that so many are afraid to parent? I think the kids are wishing for the sound advice and not always another friend.

Anyes said...

parenting is always such a tricky balance between allowing and letting be...a balance we need to re-adjust on a daily basis...

I enjoyed dropping in on your conversation :-)

Valerie said...

A fine line, sometimes it's like walking a tightrope. This has got the No.1 spot, Brian.

Lightverse said...

My head is still spinning...a world of being in just a few words. You captured the theme and all its nuances right in those bleeding fingertips.

Daniel said...

Slice of life here, but this is a part that you need to be plugged into. You can make a difference when you might not expect it or feel like it.

rosaria said...

Oh yes, trying to cross borders on so many levels.

flaubert said...

Excellent capture of scene here, Brian. You handle the conversation perfectly.
Now, I want a reuben and a kosher pickle.

Pamela

Charles Miller said...

You know how I love how you turn the everyday into music and poetry. This keeps it real, close the edge of what's important, the sharp edge without drawing blood.

kez said...

the scene is set perfectly and I felt involved with the conversation ....cept what's a Reubens ? thanks for a great read x

Steve E said...

Here I was, had just ordered a big burger, chips, a huge kosher dill, and a chocolate malted--and joined right into the conversation...ages old and worn--dammm if we do and dammm if we don't. Chomp! Chomp!

...and I'm feeling--at tips of my fingers--those old callouses and some new ones, the texture which is formed by playing millions of notes during a given week--on the violin. Funny! They're only on my left hand!--grin!

When you write, Claudia, and when you don't...you are a favorite daughter from MY perspective!
PEACE!

Tara Miller said...

a very serious tone here. Those borders are hard to cross but necessary. Not only is it our responsibility but in my opinion, also appreciated by our kids (in time). I always want to be up front with them and have them feel they can always come to us to talk about anything. They're young, but so far I feel they're secure in that. Well done, love....

Steve E said...

BOY! WOW! I AMMM Getting old (Brian vs Claudia). Well, I picked the TWO BESTEST to screw up my comments on their posts. FORGIVE???
Pax vobiscum..............

Brian Miller said...

is that your bid to see me in a dress steve...there are some borders never to cross....smiles....more than once at least...

chromapoesy.com said...

I certainly felt the tension and appreciate your ability to bring these reflections of our lives to light in poetry. This has emotional depth and the ring of truth.

Polly Janos said...

You know...I really want to participate in D'verse but then I read one of your pieces such as this, a multi-layered, social commentary, masterpiece. Sigh.

Steve E said...

I am NOW laughing!! That DID it--grin!

Brian, you in a dress, with that Mohawk? I'd maybe have a soda with you...but in a dark place. VERY dark! Yes I do have a flashlight.
;_0

Whosyergurl said...

o.k., first of all, what the hell are you doing up at 5:28 A.M. on a Saturday? ick.
Secondly. I love this. And I always feel my replies are so trite in relationship with what I'm reading from you. I bow to your majesty.
Cheryl

sage said...

You weave so many things together, good job!

lindakruschke said...

Oh that border between friend and parent. Sometimes we like to think we can be both, and if all is going smoothly and the kid isn't a teenager yet, perhaps we can. But when faced with a choice, we have to end up on the parent side. They have plenty of people on the friend side already, but only two parents (and sometimes only one).

I like the way you weaved in the lunch choices. It brought a genuiness to the conversation. Peace, Linda

pandamoniumcat said...

The difficulty of really talking to your teenagers...trying to keep the bond...you've captured it well, the callouses remain but that comes with love...nice write!

Brian Miller said...

steve, for a soda i may even shave my legs...lol...no never want to do that again...the first time was bad enough...

wheatgerm said...

puts me in the moment

Quotes,Photos and a little Poetry said...

I felt like I was there and in on every detail of the conversation. great work.

Fireblossom said...

Um, that looks good. Are you gonna finish it?

~L said...

I have yet to across a writter with anything close to your style! You tell a story and pull me, the reader into your word... You leave me wanting more... To know what the moment after the last line could be...

~L

Ash said...

Beautiful, powerful!

jen revved said...

be easier to comment on your blog if you used comment jump setting-- however, strong and interesting poem, Brian. Intimate tone and good details...xxxj

marousia said...

Great conversation - I could see the whole scene like a movie playing out

Mama Zen said...

Oh, hell, this gave me chills! Spectacular writing, Brian.

Anne said...

That opening was powerful. Caretaker, I think and playing that off taking care of children. Then you move into the conversation and come back to the beginning with the calloused fingers. Beautiful.

Teresa said...

What a great real-to-life piece. Love the amount of detail you use.

PattiKen said...

It takes a long time for a parent to figure out that the bad behavior a child exhibits may be a cry for help and direction. Hopefully most figure it out in time. A child needs a parent, not another friend.

Who Is Afraid Of Miss Lovett? No, Mrs.Lovett... said...

"I am not the guard at the border,
but the one they bring the body
not for the autopsy..."


Hello! Brian...
Once again, thanks, for sharing a very thought-provoking poem [and image too!] with your readers.

deedee :-/

Dave King said...

Another deep thought-provoker. Like all parents and ex-parents, been there many times and know something of what must lie behind it. Brilliant.

Birdie said...

very strong message Brian!

ayala said...

Good capture.... Important for kids to be able to come to their parents with anything..... Hard conversations but necessary. Many wonderful details here.

the walking man said...

It isn't the things his kid may or MAY NOT be doing eh? But rather his lack of skill at being older, wiser than a 16 year old.

Kerry O'Connor said...

This has all the qualities of the finest story-telling - a snippet in the lives of two men, familiar and unusual all at the same time. The dialog adds to the realism of what appears to be a psychological drama.

Stuart McPherson said...

This is real. Captures really nicely the unspoken thoughts within the interaction. Also reflects an empathy between parents- knowing the challenges of children. I really like the style- is there a name for this type of flow or 'conversational' poetry?. Nice job!

Gloria said...

Love your poems Brian, are special! gloria

CiCi said...

It is definitely worth a conversation with a teen child. I get the coldness of a parent who want the child to feel they are trusted so the parent lets the opportunities to talk with the child go by while they watch TV shows and pretend.

Anonymous said...

What an apt description of how it must be for YOU to bring your work "home."

That is one of my favorite meals too ... as long as the chips are of veggie variety.

Your ending is really strong:

"as i watch his eyes for more than
a night of American Idol & ice cream

absently rubbing old callouses
on the tips of my fingers,
just to feel their texture"

I can picture you, the counselor, at work with the rubbing of the fingers. Way to bring it all to life.

~Shawna
rosemarymint.wordpress.com

She Writes Here Now said...

The balance of being a friend and weighing their words and hoping to help and feeling their burden and knowing you can't really help to remove what they carry.

The balance of being a parent and being human. The balance of things people did when they were young and the hope their children will be more than them or make better choices or not get hurt for a short term decision for the long run.

The knowing we have no control over others and feeling fragile when our children remind us they have their own minds and intend to use them.

I'll have a garden burger, please.

(I liked the tension in this is what I'm saying)

Hope said...

all I can say is
I wish I could write like you

hope you and your family are well

secret agent woman said...

This one takes me to talks with friends and the long hours of listening/talking in my therapy office.

zongrik said...

nice imagery...everyone assumes this is about you and your child...but really, it could be the other way around, you could be writing from you're dad's POV, or just someone else

nerima roberts said...

Oh great.
Now I've got a hankering for a grilled ruben, chips, AND a sour pickle...and my mouth is watering.

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hello Brian,

It is true parents are worried about their daughters getting into relationships and getting pregnant. All parents want their daughters to be happily married and well settled.If children are brought up with proper guidance when they are young with the fear of God then the children are likely to follow a good life. If the parents are busy making money,neglecting their children then most likely the children will also become wayward.

Very interesting post. I enjoyed reading it.

Best wishes,
Joseph

Myrna R. said...

Difficult conversation, but you are a good friend. Good luck to this father. Your poem brings up familiar feelings.

Vicki Lane said...

Parenting (and friendship) so often involve hard questions and no easy answers...

adan said...

the moment to moment details work for me, not just in there being details, but how you've laid them in and around the the various borders, needing to eat, wanting to listen, desiring to help, wrapped up so perfectly with the perfect touch of absently touching the callouses on the tips of your fingers, "just to feel their texture" -

ie, reground back to oneself, comfort

very nicely done all around

oh, and yea, i've been on both sides of that table ;-)

life huh? thanks brian, interesting experiential piece with some important bites...

Smart Mouth Broad said...

Tough stuff, this parenting gig. Not for sissies, for sure.

No pickle?

Syd said...

Man, I am glad to not have to make that talk. Not a word was said to me except to not get anyone pregnant. It was a warning and a command, not a talk.

Glenn Buttkus said...

Yes, yes, how cool to be the
mortician munching a sandwich
while death conjures up more
work for you, the man who can
plan his lunch while sewing up
chests, while applying make up
to cold torn up dead faces;
creepy, macabre, challenging,
all Miller.

tera said...

I like how this is slightly uncomfortable, yet comforting, all at the same time.

And now I want a pickle.

adeeyoyo said...

I think it has become very difficult to have 'those talks' with our children unless they have grown up to be open with their parents.