4 Poems by John Beechem


Fatherhood is a lot fucking more than I bargained for
Fatherhood is a brutal tag team match, a vicious game of hot potato
     that lasts at least 18 years, but more likely the rest of my life
Fatherhood is humbling, leaves me awed, makes me tremble
     at the strength and majesty of any human strong enough
     to be a single mother, single father, or wear the heavy
     mantle of primary caregiver, capital P, capital C

Fatherhood is the servant of Motherhood
     of toiling for money that becomes food, that becomes milk
     that becomes burbs, soiled diapers, round cheeks, smiles and moments of peace
Fatherhood is fumbling and clumsy, looking in my wife's eyes as I hold
     our daughter, jealous at the ease with which she can create those toothless smiles
Fatherhood takes the biological imperative that places the center of a man's
     universe inside of his pants, and transforms some of that energy into
     a sense of guardianship, love and gratitude for one's family
Fatherhood reveals the secret that the pussy and womb are
     infinitely stronger than a cock and balls ever could be

Fatherhood holds a baby when she is a newborn
     and is startled by the love that comes back from that child
     the bond and energy that is instinctual, that gives me strength
     to do whatever it takes to feed, clothe, shelter, play and love her back
Fatherhood is much simpler when I'm in a good place, when my
     heart leads me some place worth going, when I can follow
     my gut, shed distractions, and focus for a minute
Fatherhood is holding Gaia close to me in a
     navy blue wrap, walking beneath the shade of trees
     on Southern Parkway for my exercise, my sanity
     and so that she feels safe, not bored

Fatherhood is a stack of bills and calculations
     the claws of capitalism that rip me from m home so I
     can sweat for our bread, putting together sums that
     don't add up the way I need them to
Fatherhood is deciding how far I want to bend
     my conscience, which corporation I might
     suck it up and take it on the chin for just to pay my bills
Fatherhood is learning that a conscience is a privilege
     realizing it may only be a matter of choosing which
     machine to be a part of

Fatherhood is the blind optimism that I can
     craft a better beginning to her life than the
     one her mother and I had
Fatherhood reminds me that this world has always
     had its share of bad in it, from the top
     to the bottom, but that we can create our own
     pockets of warmth and love
Fatherhood is a job I do, a state of being I inhabit
     for my daughter, for my wife, and for myself
     so that in spite of the ugly cacophony
     at least a few more steady beats can pound out


My compatriots followed me
    Out of a wooden apartment door and a
Black iron gate that swung shut behind us
    Announcing our departure with an abrupt metallic

The movie theater was a dozen blocks North
    I couldn't resist walking them past the discarded
Syringe cast aside on our sidewalk
    It excited me to find concrete evidence

Justifying the reputation our neighborhood has earned
    One of junkies, hookers--people
 Considered disposable, leaving proof of themselves
    In what they disposed of so easily

Dordji & Kelly led once we got past  the
    Needle, and followed the cars rushing past us on
Aurora--Neon signs glimmered in the night like
    Sirens calling to the drivers, but my eyes dazzled too

How convenient for the junkies and the hookers
    To walk this broad boulevard, working
At once for life and death, making themselves
    Victims of their own crimes, neighbors unscathed

I can only afford to live in this neighborhood because
    Their dark habits resist the influx of moneyed denizens
I will enjoy neon signs, movie theaters, friends, comfort
    You don't destroy yourself on my behalf

    Thanks for letting me reap some reward


Beneath the roots of the Yggdrasil tree
A chipmunk dreams of spring
But deaf to the chirps of the robin’s plea
Only the cold winds sing

Odin sleeps in a vast stone hall
And waits for the sun’s return
While shadows grow and black gloom falls
Slowly, the Earth does turn

On craggy peaks, frost giants tread
In the valley, dishes rattle
A mother mourns, her babe is dead
The sound of a silent rattle 

“Do not despair!” the faerie cry
“Warmth is on its way…”
They wipe the tears of the lady’s eye
And let her sleep the pain away

With berry red and holly green
Evil kept at bay
All through winter’s longest night
We shall wait the day


Background [optional]:  This poem is inspired by the daughters of Thomas and Rosalie Avina.  These girls were 11 and 14 years old in 2007. That year, DEA agents mistakenly raided the Avinas’ home while executing a search warrant in pursuit of a suspected drug trafficker.  Unfortunately, clumsily, violently, they raided the wrong house.  During the raid, the DEA agents woke the girls from sleep.  They instructed the girls to lay on the floor, facedown.  The youngest daughter was in such a shocked panic, she was unable to obey, even to get of her bed.  Agents yelled at her to “Get down on the fucking ground!”  She was dragged from her bed and hand-cuffed at gunpoint.  It was only when agents realized their mistake that they let her go. 

This incident is briefly described in the November 10, 2013 issue of The Nation.

I hear a sound
It’s the heaviest slamming door
BOOM!  But it slams open
Not shut, and it takes the frame
Out with it

Splintered wood
Sounds like broken rulers
Metal and tree exploding together

Broken windows
The crunch of boots on glass
Like when mi hermana  
Chews lemonade ice 

Voices of angry men
They are the worlds’
Scariest gym teachers but with
Black bullet-proof vests
and machine guns 

One of them points the barrel
of his gun at me
I see into its black mouth
Wait for its lead breath

Time stops

Lets me imagine everything I
Ever could have
Ever done
To make this happen

Like when I was three,
Our gold fish looked bored
so I climbed up on the couch
Put him in a cup
Brought him to some water
Pooled next to our house’s
Front side-walk
Dropped him in
Went back inside
Hours later, Mi hermana
Asked where he went
When I told her, we went out to look
He’d baked in the
Afternoon’s sunshine
No more pets for three years
Mi hermana teased me for it
Pushed me into puddles for years
This could be the vengeance of Pisces

Or when I was nine,
And my family and my friend
Carlos’s family went camping
at the lake together
His hermana was friends with mi hermana
I’d known Carlos since before I could remember
He felt kind of like an hermano or cousin
But also very much not like my cousins
so when we snuck off to our hiding spot in the
Woods I dared him to take his swimsuit off
and he did.  And I was not afraid
so when he dared me, I did too
and we saw all of each other
Exciting, dangerous, and kind of Roller-Coaster
Scary, as we dug for bugs and rocks and stared
We thought we were so sneaky
Our mothers came and found us with
Swimsuits half on and half off
Pulled on from the moment
We heard the crunch of twigs
They were red-faced and angry
Carlos started crying, I closed my eyes
In shame and walked out of there
Mi hermana never found out, but Carlos
and I could only see each other at school
When our sisters and their mothers went out,
Carlos and I had to stay home with our
Fathers or abuelitas
This could be our mothers’ wrath

Or it could be because of Mr. Brisby’s test
In October, it was about the New England
Colonies, and witches, and American Indian Tribes
and I knew it all, because I like to read and the
Tribes had very cool names like
Iroquois and Pequot . Amelia sat next to me,
and she barely knew any of it ‘cause
Reading is hard for her, and
Mr. Brisby is a jerk and
Makes her feel stupid for it, so she
Doesn’t really try
But everyone likes her, ‘cause she’s
Good for the other teachers, and
She asked me to let her cheat
So I did, because F- Mr. Brisby, right?
We didn’t get caught.  I let her copy
Made her get a couple wrong on purpose
I know how to make it not obvious
and I like Amelia, and don’t want her to get in trouble.
so maybe did the school catch on
and this is what they do to sixth-grade cheaters?  
These days, this could be Mr. Brisby’s

But when I come to, I’m on the floor shaking
In my sleep clothes, and someone is taking
Hand-cuffs off me.  My mother is crying, my
Father is cursing under his breath
The angry gym teachers are bristling mustaches
and grunted apologies, thought we had drugs
One of them curses back and says something about
“Illegals and mi hermana tells him we’re not,
and my father curses at her and tells her to
Shut up