Poem of the Week | May 30, 2022
“The World” by Kerry James Evans
This week’s Poem of the Week is “The World” by Kerry James Evans.
Kerry James Evans is the author of Bangalore (Copper Canyon). He lives in Milledgeville, Georgia, where he teaches in the MFA program at Georgia College & State University and serves as the poetry editor for Arts & Letters. Learn more at www.kerryjamesevans.com.
My parents were married in the living room of my uncle’s trailer with me
in my mother’s womb. My mother, with her new license, loved Dolly Parton
and roller skating.
She was sixteen. My father, eighteen, both scared out of their minds,
ignorant of a world
beyond their high school districts—beyond “big towns” like Birmingham
or Tuscaloosa—Roll Tide.
Shit. It was 1983. Trickle-down economics, cocaine and bull markets.
the US Embassy bombing in Beirut, 63 dead, the invasion of Grenada,
of Return of the Jedi, because Lord knows what this world needs
is a robed brat
with father issues wielding a laser. What do I know? I was conceived
in the back seat
of a ‘66 Ford Falcon—a car I restored in high school, now retired
to a junkyard
in northern Virginia after two divorces and a suicide attempt,
but who cares
about a car? A sophomore, my mother carried me into a school at full term
how to look down, but who cares about how mean kids can be?
What awful things
they said to her. My father would join the Air Force to
get her out of there—
they would try to make it work, but fail to make it work. They were kids
taking on the impossible.
I would attend eight schools K-12, reside in more than 27 domiciles,
calling one home—would learn friends is a name for people you must forget.
Look at me now
—a 38 year-old revolver loaded in the glove box.
Look at my father’s hands around my neck. Look at his father’s hands
Look how hungry I still am, how confused—how I am a country
to pieces in a C-store parking lot. What do I even know? My poor mother
McDonald’s three, four times a week, no retirement, obese,
for a party controlled by billionaires—yet I call her once a week, tell her
I love you, and I do.
I love my father, who can’t write a sentence, but commands troops
in the Army—
who will retire any day now, and I love you, reader, who knows so little about me
—who tries not to,
but can’t help but judge me for how I say these things so casually—
how my drawl
reappears like azalea blossoms in spring, then poof!
Gone with the first rain.
This morning, reading James Schuyler’s The Morning of the Poem, I was drawn to his poem, “We Walk,” a short, bright burst of a poem that speaks—somewhat indirectly—to what I believe the speaker in “The World” is experiencing in his navigation of family history. Schuyler’s poem opens, “…in the garden. Sun / on the river / flashing past. I / dig icy leaves. / We walk in a / maze.”
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