Poem / Our Children



The children that we have
become the teachers that will break us into bits

Our staunch confrontations with the world
pulverized or tested

Back across the bent backs of our parents
and ancestors

as if all the generations were tied to a dock
waiting for us to skip rocks across their bows

in the arctic with floating ice-chunks
or the tropics with its malarial fevers

Our children who take from us
cues for eye-winks or mouth-frowns

challenging the very blood that
courses through them to stand at the

crossroads and march on as the world’s
train whistles shriek shrill beside them

And we’re covered in the mist of passage
as they pass

tossing us a look or two
in passing

God keep them in their groove
for every day’s tomorrow

O Prophet press them in your praise

(from Invention of the Wheel /work in progress)

About danielabdalhayymoore

Poet, artist, collagist, publisher, hoping to save a little bit of the world through ecstatic utterance... ordered in balanced lines and unpremeditated images...
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5 Responses to Poem / Our Children

  1. glandheim says:

    I think you have a problem with the opening stanza. It is fine to eschew punctuation, but I believe you owe it to the reader to give some clue as to how to read a sentence.

    I believe the first stanza is to be read:

    “The children that we have, become the
    teachers that will break us into bits.”

    My eye first read it as:

    “The children that we have become, the
    teachers that will break us into bits,”

    which leads me into a second stanza that makes no sense.

    There is no context provided by which to know how to read the first stanza, until you start reading the second.

    I see no reason why you couldn’t write the first stanza as:

    “The children that we have
    become the teachers that will break us into bits”

    Unless, of course, you want to annoy the reader right out of the starting gate, but the rest of the poem suggests otherwise. You are engaging the reader.

    I like the way stanzas two and three lead to the vivid imagery of the third stanza. I have to applaud that, as well as the way you then cast your net across the entire world in only two lines, applying the poem to all children, everywhere.

    I see the poem as expressing the children of the world taking from previous generations the useful means of non-verbal knowledge (“cues for eye-winks or mouth-frowns”) while challenging everything else to the core of our being (“the very blood”). This plays well against the earlier parts of the poem in which children break down the past generations’ knowledge, which you so eloquently have done in the first 4 stanzas (ignoring my initial complaint).

    It is a very interesting notion you are addressing, the questioning of the non-verbal history of our culture, our traditions, our symbols and so on. The embracing of that which is useful, and the testing and rejection of that which is not.

    Usually writers address the more formal forms of human culture: art, literature, philosophy, religion, and so on. It is much more difficult to challenge the intangibles that form our unconscious framework on which we hang those formal ideas.

    It all hangs together very nicely, and if my analysis is awkward, then that’s why such ideas are best expressed through poetry. (It’s also somewhat challenging, performing analysis in this little box:) )

    I like the theme and your expression of it is excellent. I do hope you’ll do something about that first stanza or, at the very least, explain to me why you wrote it the way you did.


  2. glandheim says:

    Sorry for double-commenting, but I had a thought that I forgot to express in the previous comment.

    The poem felt harsh, or at least, very tough. Beginning with
    “the teachers that will break us into bits” and continuing throughout. That’s fine, it’s your poem. But the ending leaves me puzzled:

    “God keep them in their groove
    for every day’s tomorrow”

    This is a harsh groove, and the word “groove” brings to mind a queue of children, all going the same way, all in line. A groove is something you get trapped, or stuck in, the way a stylis is stuck in a record groove. It confines, it doesn’t liberate.

    It left me confused as to the intent of the poem.

    If you mean “keep them steadfast,” or “keep them resolute,” or “do not let them falter,” then I think I have a decent understanding of the poem.

    To be honest, I can’t think of the right word, but “in their groove,” combined with the overall hard tone of the poem does not leave me feeling good about these children.

    Nonetheless, it’s an excellent piece. I wouldn’t have spent so much time thinking about it if it was not.


  3. Dear Glandheim:
    You know, I really am amazed by your close readings of these poems… and I have, as you may note, changed the first two lines as you’ve suggested, something I rarely do actually, open to reactions but usually certain in my choices, as they are not totally mine. But your analysis was convincing… And so on throughout! You brought into light much of what was seismic in the poem.

    Now as for “groove,” and I won’t tire you with the word “groovy” though that was furthest in my mind when I wrote it, but at the same time I think “rut” is what you’ve identified as “groove,” in a way, and yet you put your finger on “record groove” which, of course, when the needle is down is the only way you get music from a record (we may both be old enough to enjoy LPs… and I just bought a lovely turntable and am recollecting records from my first infatuations, jazz, Rexroth and Ferlinghetti, etc.). That our offspring can find their groove and stay with it, something our children often find, as we did, difficult, then that is a prayer of mine. But more specifically, this poem came out of a “talk” with our daughter, and isn’t meant to be harsh or tough, but perhaps realistic. I write many very heady and romatic and visionary poems for and about my daughter and sons, but this one was a bit “tougher” for me to open to… with my prayer at the end.

    I really appreciate your input, it’s serious and intelligent and sensitive all at the same time, and we all only ask for open-hearted readers in this shadowy world of ours… so God bless, and thanks.

    And thanks for adding my link to your blog… let me reciprocate.


  4. glandheim says:

    Thanks for the explanation about “in their groove.” It makes perfect sense. I guess I was listening to LP records during a time when people were rejecting conformity, so I brought the wrong association to the table.

    When I wrote that the poem felt “harsh,” I was thinking more in the sense that the universe is harsh, or at least, uncaring. I wasn’t thinking it in the sense of stern, as one person can be to another.

    It’s interesting to analyse your poetry. There is actually something there to pry apart and think about. Your “Blog Intentions” page invites it.

    I generally read for pleasure. My one class in poetry analysis left a bad taste in my mouth. When you have to diagram a sentence to understand what someone is saying, why bother?

    Examining what you do and how you do it is educational for me. Thanks for opening your poetry to criticism.


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