Huge and Horrible Trauma, Dale Champlin

Charles Hood, Injured Bee-Eater


Huge and Horrible Trauma


If mother were a bird she would
be a mourning dove—all gentle
cooing and kitchen skills.
I’m a crow! I pluck her tendons,
pick her brain cells, yank her memories
like dry fruit from a skeletal tree.

My mother is dying. Black humor
has always saved me before, but
this situation is killing me. She’s such
a stubborn woman. I feel guilty.
Just get on with it, I think.
Then I leave her alone.

But that doesn’t last. I always
return after a day or two—
to wash her back, trim her nails—
read a self-help book
to her until she dozes off.

Sometimes I get downright depressed
        the way blue-drowned night
spins over languorous treetops
out my window and droplets of rain
spatter the panes mimicking stars.

Today I don’t want to see her.
Sunlight fans the piano keys of morning.
Wry wind pushes crows past
clouds strung like yard lights—
clouds filled with terror and disbelief.

My Father was naturally mean—
the same way I am. I remember
the two of them together—holding hands
and jumping off the end of the dock
their naked bottoms dimpled—
kicking up their heels.

Dale Champlin


Review by Robert Nisbet

I really like this poem, and am intrigued particularly by its clumsiness – and that is not a pejorative comment. I am sure the apparent clumsiness is its own kind of artistry. The poet skillfully avoids any kind of clichéd responses, any stock expressions of grief and loss but instead appears to lurch awkwardly around the various, often contradictory responses we all feel in times of loss. The background of the natural world which is introduced just after halfway adds further depth and feeling, and that ending – “their naked bottoms dimpled” is  strikingly original and effective.

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