Friday, May 22, 2015

May 22: My Kids, Gregory Pardlo, "Problema 3"

I have been thinking about my kids and kids in general this evening.  About how much parents sacrifice for their children.  My wife and I don't buy presents for each other for any occasion.  Birthdays.  Christmases.  Mother's Days.  Father's Days.  Anniversaries.  We save our money for dance lessons.  Video games.  Slumber parties.  Plush toys.  Class trips.

I'm not complaining.  It's what parents do.  Right now, we're trying to figure out if we can afford our annual fall trip to the Kalahari Resort in the Dells.  Plus all the other normal adult expenses.  Mortgage.  Car payments.  Utilities.

Parenting is not easy.

I'm not going to be able to give my kids much of a summer this year.  My daughter will go to Bible camp.  My wife's church will help us with that.  My son will be happy if he can just go swimming every once in a while.  My one week of vacation in August will not involve any trips or shopping or movies.  That's a done deal.

One of the reasons I love Gregory Pardlo's collection Digest is that he writes about the struggles of parenting.  He is in the trenches with me.

At this moment, Saint Marty's hardest job is being a father.

Problema 3

by:  Gregory Pardlo

The Fulton St. Foodtown is playing Motown and I'm surprised
at how quickly my daughter picks up the tune.  And soon
the two of us, plowing rows of goods steeped in fructose
under light thick as corn oil, are singing Baby,
I need your lovin', unconscious of the lyrics' foreboding.
My happy child riding high in the shopping cart as if she's
cruising the polished aisles on a tractor laden with imperishable
foodstuffs.  Her cornball father enthusiastically prompting
with spins and flourishes and the double-barrel fingers
of the gunslinger's pose.  But we hear it as we round the rice
and Goya aisle, that other music, the familiar exchange of anger,
the war drums of parents and child.  The boy wants, what, to be
carried? to eat the snacks right from his mother's basket?
What does it matter, he is making a scene.  With no self-interest
beyond the pleasure of replacing wonder with wonder, my daughter
asks me to name the boy's offense.  I offer to buy her ice cream.
How can I admit recognizing the portrait of fear the mother's face
performs, the inherited terror of non-conformity frosted with the fear
of being thought disrespected by, or lacking the will to discipline,
one's child?  How can I account for both the cultural and the inter-
cultural?  The boy's cries rising like hosannas as the mother's purse
falls from her shoulder.  Her missed step from the ledge
 of one of her stilted heels, passion loosed with each displaced
hairpin.  His little jacket bunched at the collar where she has worked
the marionette.  Later, when I'm placing groceries on the conveyor
belt and it is clear I've forgotten the ice cream, my daughter
tries her hand at this new algorithm of love, each word
punctuated by her little fist:  boy, she commands, didn't I tell you?

I have employed every one of these styles

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