You Are Like Hearing Hip-Hop for the First Time
Happy Father's Day! I've been thinking about all the stages of fatherhood, from the moment when one can imagine being a parent, to finding out a baby is sparked, to prepping for the arrival, to the incomparable day one's child is born, to early intense parenthood which evolves and changes as kids grow older. There is then the shifting relationship fathers have with their adult children. And today, I also remember a few friends who have recently lost their fathers. Whew. Life.
Over a backyard BBQ, friends just told us the happy news they are pregnant with their second child. Our friend Chris is taking his eleven-week-old-daughter on their first father-daughter birding outing to celebrate his first Father's Day. Today, Xavier took his Daddy to see A Beautiful Planet, the IMAX film about astronauts, something they both love. My siblings and I are getting excited to gather with our dad this fall to celebrate his 70th birthday and later this month we celebrate Christian's father's 80th.
With so much to celebrate with the dads in my life, I was quite disappointed at the dearth of good Father's Day cards on offer - they hardly grazed the complexity and beauty of fatherhood. But to remedy that, I want to share something wonderful from poet Kevin Young. I cut this poem out of the New Yorker when I first read it, before ever getting pregnant. When I recently took a writing workshop with him here in Seattle, I was able to tell him personally how much I love this poem (and he signed Book of Hours for me!) So much joy in the last lines:
Grave, my wife lies back, hands cross
her chest, while the doctor searches early
for your heartbeat, peach pit, unripe
plum–pulls out the world’s worst
boom box, a Mr. Microphone, to broadcast
your mother’s lifting belly.
The whoosh and bellows of mama’s body
and beneath it: nothing. Beneath
the slow stutter of her heart: nothing.
The doctor trying again to find you, fragile
fern, snowflake. Nothing.
After, my wife will say, in fear,
impatient, she went beyond her body,
this tiny room, into the ether–
for now, we spelunk for you one last time
lost canary, miner of coal
and chalk, lungs not yet black–
I hold my wife’s feet to keep her here–
and me–trying not to dive starboard
to seek you in the dark water. And there
it is: faint, an echo, faster and further
away than mother’s, all beat box
and fuzzy feedback. You are like hearing
hip-hop for the first time–power
hijacked from a lamppost–all promise.
You couldn’t sound better, break-
dancer, my favorite song bumping
from a passing car. You’ve snuck
into the club underage and stayed!
Only later, much, will your mother
begin to believe your drumming
in the distance–my Kansas City
and Congo Square, this jazz band
vamping on inside her.
~ Kevin Young