Confessions About a Father from His Son

We ended class Wednesday, reviewing different types of poems, leaping, stand-up, slam, and confessional. The excitement that Professor Theune felt about certain poems being read-aloud reminded me of my own excitement when I come across an exquisite, powerful poem.

For this week’s post, I’d like to share in the beauty of Bob Hicok’s “The Wish”.

“The Wish”

On Tuesday I learned I’d never sit                                                                                               with my father on a curb and chuck                                                                                                 stones. Does it seem at times                                                                                                             the life want runs to your left                                                                                                          and parallel to your own? I thought                                                                                            we’d be planting a tree one day                                                                                                         and he’d stop, put down                                                                                                                    his shovel and truculence                                                                                                              and ask some useless thing,                                                                                                            did I ever think of counting                                                                                                                 the leaves on a maple or wonder                                                                                                     why it’s easier to cry alone                                                                                                                 in a car? We speak of parts                                                                                                              of ourselves and in some                                                                                                                 unnamed place I’d decided                                                                                                            this was inevitable, the he                                                                                                              would soften into human form                                                                                                       as we watched the river                                                                                                              empty itself into its own mouth.                                                                                                    He’d not know what to say or do                                                                                                     and this would be fine, would be                                                                                                    what the sky wanted of him,                                                                                                             and we’d breathe, we’d move                                                                                                        our hands and feet and forget                                                                                                       we were father and son standing                                                                                                      at the hem of a river, until                                                                                                             one of us came back into our body                                                                                                and said I’m sorry, what                                                                                                        where you saying? On a Tuesday                                                                                                 at his kitchen table I learned                                                                                                             from his eyes this would never                                                                                                  happen. There will always                                                                                                              be work, always fear and the need                                                                                                to make the soul                                                                                                                                 small and impenetrable,                                                                                                                   to be hard enough to get                                                                                                                   the job done. Learned                                                                                                                     that if I speak the truth                                                                                                                     at his grave I’ll be allowed                                                                                                                    one phrase, that I have                                                                                                                         no idea who this man was.


This poem’s expression of nature and a long for the bond between father and son holds multiple complexities within it’s meaning, and it’s style. Each scene was not what he wished his father had taught him about being a man, but what he wished his father encompassed as characteristics; a man who took time to throw stones with his son, to plant new trees, and contemplate the leaves on the trees. His confession is a longing not literally for a nature walk with his father, but simply any memory of his father being human, gentle, kind.

There are little leaps in the poem, where his father “softens into human form”, and how the sky would want him to lose his train of thought walking side-by-side his son at the river’s edge. These leaps transcend the reader from the description of the scene to the depiction of the narrator’s pretend father.

I think this poem could be argued to fit in all categories that we have learned in class. The passion behind the narrator’s longing and confession, could easily be turned to slam, especially with the circular effect of  the line “On a Tuesday I learned”. It is leaping in the river scene as the father and son travel in and out of their bodies, and how the sky holds the power of knowledge and want. Now to describe this poem as stand up is a tough debate, and possibly a hypocritical comparison, since this poem is most definitely confessional, however I cannot read the first few lines “The Wish” and not laugh at it’s simplicity of a regret; “On a Tuesday I learned I’d never sit/ with my father on a curb and chuck/ stones.”

How do you guys read this poem?

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