Original Analysis found here: Analysis of “The Day After My Father’s Death”"
Poem found here: "The Day After My Father's Death" by Bill Knott
There’s multiple things at play here: expectation, form, narrative, perspective. The speaker as a child, who is in an orphanage, is told that his father has died, is placed into an office to grieve. The child reads comic books as more of a distraction but comes around back to the situation. And even though the poem reads as a narrative of the moment, the end has a slight acknowledgement of the speaker now.
The opening line of the poem, “It’s too complex to explain,” might seem a bit on the nose, but for me, it’s a refreshing continuation of the title, “The Day After My Father’s Death.” The opening line doesn’t try to romanticize feelings or hyperbolize the situation — the speaker automatically tells the audience, it’s complicated — maybe the death, maybe the feelings, but the following lines, “but I was already in / the orphanage when dad died; ” adds a complex situation to another complex situation.
The next lines adds to the narrative but there’s an interesting way of looking at grief as well:
and so that day when I cried,
to keep the other children safe
from my infectious grief
they left me in lockdown
There’s a sense of hyperbole at play here through the term “infectious grief” and “lockdown”; however, after reading the poem a couple of times, these terms don’t feel out of place. “Infectious grief” adds more sense of tragedy to the scene since the context is at an orphanage — it’s like the orphans playing out the same scene over again of losing everything; furthermore, the idea of lockdown seems like a prison term, but it isn’t far-fetched. The speaker is in lockdown to hold back the grief from spilling over.
And this poem takes a turn to the reserved with the switch onto reading the comic books, “which they had confiscated / from us kids through the year.” And it seems to distract the speaker, “and on through wiped tears / I pored quickly knowing.” Note how there isn’t any focus on what comcs were read or any of the plot. The comics serve as a numbing device from the reality of the situation when, “this was a one-time thing– / this quarantine would soon end–” Part of me thinks that this poem hinges on the idea on “one-time thing.” Not only with comic books, but also the situation — it’s a one time thing losing a father.
But then again, there’s the comparison of what’s worst — losing the comic books at the age of kid or
worse than that I knew
that if a day ever did come
when I could obtain them,
gee, I’d be too old to read
them then, I’d be like him, dad.
Now this could reference the comc books — being able to read them at an old age, but the last lines are complex and the idea of “too old.” Yes, to old to read comic books, but also too old to die the same age as the father (which I assume the father died young) or to old to “read” and rather “understand” or “look deeper” into the moment.