FEBRUARY 14, 2015

My father never asked me
why I gave up
becoming a doctor
to be a poet.

I would’ve told him
because of a poem
by Levine
about a boy and girl

on Belle Isle
taking off their clothes
and walking
hand in hand

into the filthiest river
I knew, the Detroit River.
The poem
was beautiful

but I kept my mouth shut
about it and Levine,
sure he’d only ask
if the poet

was a Jew.
He only ever talked
to one Jew,
the owner of a furniture shop

by the Rouge,
and only to haggle
over the price
of a sofa or dining set

he wasn’t planning
on buying.
He could’ve said a lot
that I might have

listened to:
poems won’t pay bills,
and the companies hiring
don’t give a shit

about all the poems
written in English,
or Arabic,
or any language.

He’d never read
a poem of mine,
and didn’t bother
to ask if anyone

in the world thought
they were any good.
He might’ve
pointed out how poor

and destitute
so many poets died.
But he did none of this.
I told him

I was going to be a poet,
regardless of failure,
and he put a gun to my head
and said, “No.”

I was nineteen,
that was twenty-three years ago,
and today
Phil Levine died.



A poet I loved and was betrayed by
loved me again and my ex-wife
took me to a hotel to fuck my brains out,
something we never did, but just as her body
touched mine a crowd of people appeared,
an acquaintance, a colleague,
my current wife, one by one defiling
the moment and the room and then,
because they do not give a rat’s ass
about daylight savings, my kids
woke me at 6 a.m., which was 5 a.m.,
the lawn needed mowing, the mower
needed gas, and halfway through I ran out
of leaf bags so I made a pile,
called the kids, they had at it, the air
smelled like a past I never had yet always
imagined as my own, and I knew,
in life, some sentences never get said,
but some do—go, listen for them.

HAYAN CHARARA is the author of three poetry books, the most recent of which is Something Sinister. He’s also written an award-winning children’s book, The Three Lucys. He lives in Houston, Texas.