Unable to Sway You, Father

Pounding my fists
on your fat chest
the hollow rhythmic   thump
of my anger erupting from the empty
surprise of your mouth,

you, not even rocking
back on your work boot heels,
your very body a fortress
mocking my outburst

my sixteen year old anger
just a fourth daughter’s frustrations
neither my flailing poems
nor drumming knuckles
made any sense to you
who could not know my   outrage

with these siblings
narrow as the wooden slats
that half-blocked the hot air vents,
in that mountain house
you so carefully built,
a home we so recklessly split,
easily as kindling.

Questions and Answers

What inspired “Unable to Sway You, Father”?

“Unable to Sway You, Father” is an actual reporting of a day I lost my temper/self control, with a close verse on its significance. I was the teen pounding on my Father’s chest; he weighed double what I did. My father had stepped between myself and my 7 years younger, spoiled and only brother. The last verse—with decades of living later—came to me with the realization that stormy sibling arguments can tear a family apart.

What poetic techniques did you use in “Unable to Sway You, Father”?

It is not easy to dissect one’s own poems. My best work comes when I imagine myself in a dramatic moment: fight, kiss, ‘A’ grade or dying dog. I try to hear the sounds, smell the scents, taste the food or the air, feel the textures, see everything: either a sharp focus or fuzzy as needed. I experience everything—a full sensory video—as well as let my disorganized memories spit up whatever phrases or words to which it immediately connects. I avoid literal logic. I certainly cannot plan my metaphors! Often, it is my first and last lines that need cutting, so I can happily find the heart of that poem, mainly the way it arrived in my notebook.

This poem “Unable to Sway You, Father” originally appeared in B.C. Writers / Reviews Issue. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 102 (Autumn 1984): 6.

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