Reading the daily newspaper (The Baltimore Sun, at our house) is a habit I formed in childhood. My father read The New York Times and our local daily, The Bergen Record every day while he ate breakfast.
When a story sticks with me over the course of the day -- whether it's funny, outlandish or gut-wrenching -- I worry at it. My thoughts lick at the news item as if it were a sore tooth. Sometimes, I just write. Other times, I sit with the story for a time before I find my path into the poem.
I am increasingly disturbed at the attacks against civilians, including children, in Syria. A few weeks ago, I heard a news story on NPR about a young protester who was jailed and tortured. The boy is the same age as my teenage son.
The poem I wrote was published at the e-zine, New Verse News. It is an online journal specializing in poetry about current events.
by Laura Shovan
They are robotic at fifteen, some boys,
quiet as proverbial church mice. Their motors
skitter discreetly beneath the hum
of the family refrigerator, beneath their mothers’
“how was school” banter, beneath the nagging,
the talk-talk, the “I’ll try anything”
to chase him out of this Tin Man stage,
this heartless construction with its monotone
and monosyllables. Even his angles are jerky.
My son called from Nebraska, at last
back at the Best Western late
from Robotics, where his machine,
concoction of metal, gears,
arm lifting objects in its ingenious elevator,
was not picked for the team. It sat
in its 18 by 18 shipping box,
ignored and folded on itself,
elevator arm tucked away.
And in the morning, driving somewhere --
a distraction from my son’s distance -- the radio.
A boy in Datta, not yet sixteen, no church mouse,
volted into protest, its jolts in his wires,
powering up his voice box. Later,
when he called home from jail, his mother said
his voice had changed, the words almost
unrecognizable. Electric shock will do that.
Still, he said what they all say.
It’s in their wiring. We have programmed them
to say it. Now they are men
and they are fine.
Our host today is Mary Lee at A Year of Reading. Mary Lee is looking for bloggers to host Poetry Friday throughout the summer and into fall. Please contact her to sign up.
Love this, Laura. Very powerful. I will have to take a look at New Verse News.
(P.S. I'm sorry his machine wasn't chosen for the team.)
Hi, Tabatha. There is a new current events poem every day -- great concept for an online journal.
(Thanks about the robot. Ancient history now in the life of my teen!)
I don't know where to begin other than to say I have a son who is months from 15. You describe that age so well. My stomach sank at the end with the learning to say I'm fine. We've been talking a lot in our family about all the different ways we communicate how we are. As he turns into a man I've been recalling the early days of my marriage--another time I had to think a lot about how we as men and women communicate about our inner lives. Thanks for sharing it.
I love how the three stanzas of your poem are so different and yet...they need each other to tell the story...or stories.
This is such a moving poem.
I love the image of boys being robotic at 15 and that "Their motors/ skitter discreetly beneath the hum
/ of the family refrigerator" I am starting to see a bit of that in my son and his friends.
Quite a contrast in our worries, isn't it though? Powerful.
I have an 11 year old grandson & I think of him & of those boys, just a few years older, & I watch the news & wonder that we have anything at all to worry over. It's quite a poem to connect your son's journey with another in quite a different place, & still they are similar, mother to son.
Thank you, all. Linda, yes -- there are differences in culture in experience, but there are also elemental concerns about how our boys deal with hurt (real or perceived).
Wow. This is powerful.541
That last stanza shook me to the core...the news out of Syria is shocking, what they are doing to children is beyond understanding. Thank you for the poetry source as well...
Commenting through blurry eyes, Laura. Thank you for sharing such a powerful poem. Hard to accept our boys growing up (mine is now 17); harder to try to fathom what's going on across the world right now.
Wonderfully powerful. Thank you, Laura.
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