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Patrick Rosal
Patrick Rosal

If All My Relationships Fail and I Have No Children Do I Even Know What Love Is

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 22, 2018.
About this Poem 

“When I roll up to a family party or visit relatives around the United States or back in the Philippines, an elder will often ask me, ‘Where is your girlfriend?’ or ‘You're not married yet?!’ (Insert the laughter of Filipinos here.) My life so often feels filled with affection and tenderness—certainly from my closest and dearest friends and beloveds, but also from and among strangers. I guess it is a kind of failure not to learn how to love and be loved, but I also think it's a kind of love to bear witness to love itself: to pay attention to it, especially in unlikely places and forms, to record it, to struggle to write love down so that it changes me. In that way, I feel an incredible sense of wealth.”

—Patrick Rosal

If All My Relationships Fail and I Have No Children Do I Even Know What Love Is

This fireman comes every afternoon
to the café on the corner
dressed for his shift in clean dark blues
This time       it’s the second Wednesday of January
and he’s meeting his daughter again
who must be five or six
and who is always waiting for her father like this
in her charcoal gray plaid skirt
with green and red stripes
She probably comes here straight from school
her glasses a couple nickels thick
 
By now I know     that she can sit       (except
for her one leg swinging from the chair)  
absolutely still      while her father pulls  	
fighters’ wraps from his work bag
and begins half way down the girl’s forearm
winding the fabric in overlapping spirals
slowly toward her fist           then     he props     	
her wrist      like a pro    on his own hand 
unraveling the black cloth   weaving it  	
between her thumb and forefinger
around the palm         	   taut but
not so much that it cuts off the blood          then
up the hand and between the other fingers
to protect the knuckles         the tough   	
humpback guppies just under the skin 	
 
He does this once with her left       then again
to her right  	To be sure her pops knows he has done
a good job    	she nods        Good job       Good	
Maybe you’re right              I don’t know what love is
A father kisses the top of his daughter’s head
and knocks her glasses cockeyed
He sits back and downs the last of the backwash
in his coffee cup         They got 10 minutes to kill
before they walk across the street 	  down the block
and out of sight         She wants to test
her dad’s handiwork            by throwing  
a couple jab-cross combos from her seat
There is nothing in the daughter’s face 	
that says     she is afraid    	
There is nothing in the father’s face      	
to say he is not                     He checks his watch        	
then holds up his palms    as if to show his daughter   	
that nothing is burning                     In Philadelphia
there are fires      I’ve seen those  in my lifetime too

Copyright © 2018 by Patrick Rosal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 23, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Patrick Rosal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 23, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Poetry and the Creative Mind
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collection

Classic Books of American Poetry

This collection of books showcases the masterpieces of American poetry that have influenced—or promise to influence—generations of poets. Take a look.

poem

These Poems

These poems
they are things that I do
in the dark
reaching for you
whoever you are
and
are you ready?

These words
they are stones in the water
running away

These skeletal lines
they are desperate arms for my longing and love.

I am a stranger
learning to worship the strangers
around me

whoever you are
whoever I may become.

June Jordan
2017
poem

Always on the Train

Writing poems about writing poems
is like rolling bales of hay in Texas.
Nothing but the horizon to stop you.

But consider the railroad's edge of metal trash;
bird perches, miles of telephone wires.
What is so innocent as grazing cattle?
If you think about it, it turns into words.

Trash is so cheerful; flying up
like grasshoppers in front of the reaper.
The dust devil whirls it aloft; bronze candy wrappers,
squares of clear plastic—windows on a house of air.

Below the weedy edge in last year's mat,
red and silver beer cans.
In bits blown equally everywhere,
the gaiety of flying paper
and the black high flung patterns of flocking birds.
Ruth Stone
2003
Acadia National Park. Courtesy of the National Park Service
poem

Like You

translated by Jack Hirschman

Like you I
love love, life, the sweet smell
of things, the sky-blue
landscape of January days.

And my blood boils up
and I laugh through eyes
that have known the buds of tears.

I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.

And that my veins don’t end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
love,
little things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone.


Como Tú

Yo, como tu,
amo el amor, la vida, el dulce encanto
de las cosas, el paisaje
celeste de los días de enero.

También mi sangre bulle
y río por los ojos
que han conocido el brote de las lágrimas.

Creo que el mundo es bello,
que la poesía es como el pan, de todos.

Y que mis venas no terminan en mí
sino en la sange unánime
de los que luchan por la vida,
el amor,
las cosas,
el paisaje y el pan,
la poesía de todos.

Roque Dalton
2018
collection

A Poet's Glossary

Read about poetic terms and forms from Edward Hirsch's A Poet's Glossary (Harcourt, 2014), a book ten years in the making that defines the art form of poetry.  

AASL Best Website for Teaching & Learning
poem

Poetry Is a Destructive Force

That's what misery is,
Nothing to have at heart. 
It is to have or nothing. 

It is a thing to have, 
A lion, an ox in his breast, 
To feel it breathing there.
 
Corazon, stout dog, 
Young ox, bow-legged bear, 
He tastes its blood, not spit. 

He is like a man 
In the body of a violent beast. 
Its muscles are his own . . .

The lion sleeps in the sun. 
Its nose is on its paws. 
It can kill a man. 
Wallace Stevens
1980
Spring–Summer 2018 issue of American Poets
collection

Lesson Plans for Introducing Poetry

Bring poems into the classroom with these lesson plans, which are especially suited to introducing students to poetry and helping them become engaged and thoughtful readers.