Original poem reprinted online here: "What Followed Your Birth" by Hal Sirowitz
Originally read: May 23, 2013
More information about the Poet: Hal Sirowitz
I think this is a part of Father Said. I bring up the collection because there's a strong observation of tone and presence from the father in this poem. What drives this poem further is not only the father, but what the speaker is remember -- what words and combinations impact the speaker who remains silent in this poem.
The poem opens up with a reference to the birthday, "You might not like being reminded /of your birthday, Father said, / but your mother & I do." which brings confrontational elements. Note how the speaker is just listening and is the focal point, but what version of the speaker. There is no indication of the current age of the speaker. Also note that the father is also speaking on behalf of the mother as well.
The poem describes the speakers birth as a"happy occasion" and the following years as "good / & bad." These are generalizations that feel like a lead up to the main point. And although the lead up is around four lines, I wonder if this strengthens the impact of the parents concern -- or the "bad."
1. "last of your friends / to get a job which you still haven't / gotten yet."
2. "It just took you longer / to get started."
3. "You had to go back / to school"
4. "That wouldn't have been so bad / if you were learning something"
5. "after all these years to still not know / what you want for a present doesn't speak / well for education"
Why did I break down the poem like this? Each judgment comes with different tactics on confrontation. Why different tactics? So the "father" can adapt to the speaker's untold reaction.
First, is the guilt placed on the speaker to being last among friends to get a job; furthermore, the guilt is compounded with "gotten yet." The focus here is on achievement on a group level. And although this may sound harsh, the conversation turns to the second point.
The late bloomer. The father sees the speaker as a late bloomer there's kind of a reinstilling of ego which was deftly taken away.
You had to go back to school. For me, I hear the emphasis on "had." Here the father is presenting the speaker's situation as obligatory transition. The speaker "had" to go back to school because there was no other option for the speaker to transition. This foreshadows more of the father's view point on school with a certain level of disdain.
The level of disdain bluntly comes out with "if you were learning something" in which the conflict is about learning. Or rather the equation that learning equals developing either by growing up mentally or socially. Also the sentiment is more aggro with the lines and this is where the emphasis of the conversation.
And with the last bit of the conversation there is a play on the word "present" which both represents the here and now, and also a gift with the final judgement of "Doesn't speak well for education" which attacks more of the education the speaker received. Also what this line does in attack multiple targets: the speaker, the speaker's education, and the present.
Through all this the speaker is silent recording the conversation. A cocoon state.