Scott Owens



The book of your life begins

with pink pages framed between

concentric lines of a quilt.

On each one I write

your first one hundred words,

kitty, babana, light bulb.


You fixate first on blankets,

then a bear you name Barry,

a cat called Purrey, lately

a drumstick you say has the power

to scare dinosaurs and monsters,

even purple ones, even mean

ones that try to stomp you.


You already have more friends

than I, at ease with words,

asking everyone's name,

inviting them to play with you.


When I walk too fast, you stop,

bend over, say you have to get

the breath back in  your mouth.


At 3, you don't like the boys room

anymore, claim it's stinky

and boys' butts are different.


You talk about the way things were

when you were bigger, don't like

to play by yourself, pretend to be

the purple princess horse, yellow

mermaid, hero of the ocean,

ask me to be the Daddy.


You still make up nonsense words,

especially when cuddling,

an ur-language of love.

Sometimes you press into me

so hard it hurts, your nose

on my nose, face on my face,

as if there could never be

too little space between us.



The poem of my life has been

the transformation of just

one word, leaving behind

the slap and yell, sunken

teeth of argue and fight,

teaching the rule of numbers,

colors, left and right,

replacing fist with open

hand to carry, hold,

soothe, pouring tea

checking for monsters, eating

crusts of bread, skin

of apples, anything unwanted,

my only tools paper

and play, pen and wipe,

image and line, standing

still until the past

poems up inside me.



The chicken's claws will tear

a Rembrandt drawing if you put it down.

             Robert Bly, "The Yellow Dot"


You can make sure they eat right,

exercise, rest. You can keep them

in the house during storms, move

away from fault lines and eroding

beaches, any place as suspect

as Kansas. You can warn them against

drugs, booze, sex, make sure

they're too busy to need distraction.

You can stroke away little pains,

sorrows, attacks on self-esteem.

You can visit the doctor regularly,

buy the best filters for your home,

drive carefully, always wear belts.

You can teach them not to run

with scissors or play with fire,

to stay away from strangers

and always look both ways.


But you can never foresee the hidden

tumor or shattered windshield.

You can't deny the will of God,

the short straw, luck of the draw.

And even as you hold them up,

you have to be careful you're not

holding them back as well.

Graduate of the UNCG MFA program, co-editor of Wild Goose Poetry Review, Chair of the Sam Ragan Poetry Prize for the Poetry Council of NC, and author of "Musings," a weekly poetry column in Outlook, Scott Owens' books include
The Fractured World (2008) and The Persistence of Faith (1993).  He is also author of two chapbooks, Deceptively Like a Sound (2008), and The Book of Days (2009), and over 400 poems published in various journals.   He has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net Prize this year.  His poem, "On the Days I Am Not My Father," was featured on Garrison Keillor's NPR show The Writer's Almanac. Born in Greenwood, SC, he now lives in Hickory, NC, where he teaches and coordinates the Poetry Hickory reading series.



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