I keep meaning to post this, from Lois Lowry’s blog. Generally I am baffled by and scared of poetry, but not this poem. (I just attended a screening of a documentary in progress about bullying, so maybe the subject’s on my mind. But who am I kidding — it’s never NOT on my mind.)
Sins of the Father
by W.D. Ehrhart
Today my child came home from school in tears.
A classmate taunted her about her clothes,
and the other kids joined in, enough of them
to make her feel as if the fault was hers,
as if she can’t fit in no matter what.
A decent child, lovely, bright, considerate.
It breaks my heart. It makes me want someone
to pay. It makes me think—O Christ, it makes
me think of things I haven’t thought about
in years. How we nicknamed Barbara Hoffman
“Barn,” walked behind her through the halls and mooed
like cows. We kept this up for years, and not
for any reason I could tell you now
or even then except that it was fun.
Or seemed like fun. The nights that Barbara
must have cried herself to sleep, the days
she must have dreaded getting up for school.
Or Suzanne Heider. We called her “Spider.”
And we were certain Gareth Schultz was queer
and let him know it. Now there’s nothing I
can do but stand outside my daughter’s door
listening to her cry herself to sleep.
1. Kids are mean. Girls are mean and boys are mean. Adults frequently screw up when it comes to girl-and-boy-meannness. But I do believe that parents and educators have resources if we really want to create a culture less hospitable to bullying. That’s a subject for another post, but I’ve written about it before: here and here, among other places.
2. Ehrhart, who has been called “the dean of Vietnam war poetry,” sounds like a fascinating guy. And he obviously writes about way more than war. I love the poem on his Wikipedia page.