We are posting this Poetry Sunday while the world keeps an eye on a hospital in London. There are so many reasons for reading all of the poems in Susannah Sheffer’s new collection, This Kind of Knowing, but since we often present the topical here, we are offering this beautiful one for today. Trust that you’ll be seeing more of her on Women’s Voices for Change, and believe us when we say that nothing in her chapbook is anything but a pathway to knowledge about the unknowable.
HOW MY FATHER NAMED ME
Because I came too early,
because I had had enough and wanted more,
they weren’t ready, they were caught,
they would have held me back,
said give us a little more time.
This was not how they’d pictured it,
but then who’s to say they pictured anything,
who’s to say they understood the longings
this third person would satisfy, or create.
So he left the hospital to stand in the park,
stepping out of the scene
in order to see it more clearly.
He thought it might come to him there
the way things sometimes come
if we stand in the right place,
hold ourselves the right way.
He thought he might learn to recognize
what he had been given,
what had burst into his life,
breathing and actual,
not an idea but something that had entered
in its own way and own time,
something that needed a name.
Printed with the poet’s permission from “This Kind of Knowing.” Cooper Dillon Books 2013
Susannah Sheffer is staff writer at the national organization Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, and she also works with teenagers, helping them to understand their lives through writing. Her essays and poems have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, and her most recent book is Fighting for Their Lives: Inside the Experience of Capital Defense Attorneys (Vanderbilt University Press, 2013).