Posted by: cousinbrandon | January 8, 2010

Versus: The Poetry of Cousin Brandon

I thought I’d post a different sort of poem today. So much of my poetry is consumed with the father-son relationship that I sometimes lose perspective of the fact that, yes, I’m a father, as well. By no means does that mean exploiting my daughter for my art; rather, it’s taking the subject matter the world handed me and finding the art within it. Isn’t that what art is: an interpretation of fact and fiction, funneled through the artist and illustrated as the final product?

I don’t remember ever sharing the following poem — not in a workshop, not with friends, not with anyone. It wasn’t because I was ashamed of it or trying to hide anything; I just didn’t have the audience for it. My daughter turns six this year, and I think I wrote the first version of this poem back when she was about a year old, so some time during 2005. I’m reminded regularly of the challenges not of being a parent, but being the parent of a little girl. Constantly people “warn” me that I’d “better watch out,” because soon enough she’ll be grown up and the boys will be banging down my front door. And I, of course, do the contrived laugh, where I give the knowing wink and mutter nonsensical things like, “Yeah, well.” But in truth, I do worry about these things, and it scares the hell out of me. I’m an overprotective parent as it is, so to hear her say, “Freddy’s hot!” while watching Freddie Prinze, Jr. in Scooby Doo is enough for me to lock her in her room for all of time.

“Him, On the Rings” is not only a poem about protecting those we love, and the inevitable inability to do so, but the double standard that exists between boys and girls, men and women. Hopefully that dichotomy is evident. Again, this poem is, well, raw, in that it hasn’t been critiqued, workshopped, or even read.

Him, On the Rings

When she finally does call
in the middle of the night, let it be
to tell me her gymnastics team
won States, and was forced to leave
immediately for Nationals in Des Moines.
But even then the captain of the boys’ team,
who holds the under-fifteen record
on rings, might move in and sweet-talk her
with stories of how he once nailed
an Iron Cross for ten seconds straight.
My daughter, poor thing, will eat it up
the same way Ali Carter did back
in 9th grade gym, the day she watched me crack
two homers out over the left field wall,
both of which I hit for her, or so I said,
certain it would get me nothing less
than my hand up her shirt, and if lucky
the chance to unhinge the purple bra
I once sneaked a peek of. When it worked,
I was forever picked on and razzed
by my idiot friends, and reveled in it
because that’s what boys do. So when
it’s my daughter who moves into that place
I can no longer be a part of, where boys
sneak glances down her blouse
and imagine what it would be like to kiss her,
I’ll try to remember that a boy on the rings,
who’s able to float mid-air and splay
his spindly arms from his barely pubescent frame
like a child Christ, is still a boy.
And no matter what kind of lies spill
from his lips, about losing track of time,
or posturing, Oh, it was ten o’clock
you wanted her home
, I’m not too old
to put him through a wall, and if need be
find the old man who could give a shit
what his punk kid does, high-fives him
when regaled with stories of how
his boy scored. In the end I’ll find son
and dad both, stand up for my baby
and for once be a father to my little girl
whether she likes it or not.




  1. No workshopping or revision needed here. A parent’s love is raw…your poem is excellent, brilliant, finished. Thanks for letting us read it.

    • Very kind of you to say so. Thanks, bgb.

  2. This is the exact reason why my wife and I, when discussing the possibility of children are scared to death at the prospects of having a girl. It seems like so much more with a girl you would be kept up at night worrying about the judgement and values that has been raised into other people’s kids. Not the judgement that instilled into your own. I hope that doesn’t come off sounding like I think that girls are weak willed. Not the case at all. I’ve been surrounded by strong women my whole life (it makes me think of when my sister clocked my brother with a frying pan because he was showing her such a lack of respect. It may sound extreme but at the time no one flinched that he would have deserved it and it’s now become sort of a holliday dinner table joke in my family), but the kind of sport of it that you mentioned. That aspect of the way “boys will be boys” would scare the hell out of me.

    That’s blowing right by the sort of coming of age as a father dynamic of it that I was very touched by as well. The great cycle. I think you depicted it really well. I really enjoyed it. You must be a really great father.

    • Whether or not I’m a great father, WakingUpWithRobots, remains to be seen. Regardless, I love the little girl to no end. And whether you end up having a boy or a girl, being “protective” is inevitable. It seems that the parents of boys have things a little bit easier when it comes to that, but it’s always going to be your kid, so that part of it never goes away.

  3. Another beautiful poem.

    My Dad followed me in his car on my first date. He has never liked any of my boyfriends.

    It was completely different for my brother. I’ll not go into that here.

    It will always be this way for fathers of daughters. Unless they’re sociopaths.

    • I’m pretty certain I’m no sociopath. Again, pretty certain, not positive. Most people would beg to differ.

      Regardless, thanks for the kind words.

  4. Wow.
    Gotta thank Best Girl Betty for leading me down the rabbit hole (Twitter) which led to your blog.
    I have a slightly different perspective, being the mother of two girls (3 and 1) but that fierce need to protect is the same. Perhaps even stronger, since I recall all-too-well the struggles between wanting to be accepted and wanting to be me.
    Your poem moved me beyond words and now I’m just babbling.
    Well done, you 😉

    • Thanks so much for the kind words, Mary, and it’s great to have a new reader on board. Hope you’ll stick around for a while.

  5. Like the site.

    • Thanks, Michael. Always nice to have new readers. Please stay tuned!

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