Apology to My Daughter

By TOM SLEIGH

“Life is not a walk across a field…”—Pasternak

For ten years, Hannah, the world convinced me
that thorn trees, desert, Land Rovers tricked out
with CB radios, machine guns and armor plate,

grew more real the harder it became
to fulfill my nightly promise to rebar and rubble
that some final vowel would reverse time

and resurrect stunted concrete into a city.
Stretched to the horizon, a smoking, vacant lot;
overgrown weeds and vines; a real nightingale

flitting among leaves. I didn’t know it
back then, but when I left you, Hannah, I suspected
private life, underneath, was pure evasion.

But I learned there’s no shortage of suffering—
that a father’s no shield for his child
when life is, in fact, a walk across a field.

 

Tom Sleigh’s many books include The King’s Touch (forthcoming in February 2022); House of Fact, House of Ruin; Station Zed; and Army Cats. His book of essays, The Land Between Two Rivers, recounts his time as a journalist covering refugee issues in the Middle East and Africa. He has won a Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lila Wallace Award, both the John Updike and Individual Writer Awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and two NEA grants. His poems appear in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Threepenny Review, Poetry, and many other magazines. He is a Distinguished Professor at Hunter College.

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Apology to My Daughter

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