Poetry Friday: “Sunday afternoon, 1975”

poetryfridaybutton-fulllWell, I hope you enjoyed that little excursion into the past with my Throwback Summer series…many of you commented that you couldn’t believe I was willing to share poetry I’d written in high school and college, and my response is, “Hey, we all had to start somewhere!”

Granted, “Ode to a Dishrag,” “Ode to Lint,” and “Ode to a Poem I’m Writing Only Because I Couldn’t Think of Anything Else to Write About” were never Pushcart contenders…but I wanted to show readers how far one can develop through hard work, practice, and sheer determination.

As I always say, #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading!

Today we get back to my present-day writing, and the following is one of those poems I wrote specifically to submit to a journal. I’ve previously shared my thoughts about the value of submission requests as inspiration to write, and this was one of those cases; the journal was looking for poems about ice cream, so I put this together.

It was just a few weeks later that I went to the journal’s website and all references to this particular issue were removed, and even the contact person’s name was nowhere to be found. Sigh. Oh, well…no reason to let the poem go unread, right?

Sunday afternoon, 1975

Ice cream, again. One of them said
something wrong, I think, something the other
didn’t like;
I don’t know what. I don’t know why
they’re even here in front of the grocery store
instead of at home – one of our homes –
but we’re here, and people
I don’t know are looking
and all I can do is fight
a shiver in my chest. I try not
to make them mad, but it always happens
around this time
every second weekend.

Without warning,
mom snatches my hand and turns, walking
so quickly I can barely keep up; I turn my head
to look behind
and see dad, standing on the pavement
watching, arms
by his sides, right hand
angled in a half-wave
as if to say
he’s sorry
it’s ice cream again.

– © 2016, Matt Forrest Esenwine, all rights reserved

Poetry Friday is being hosted by the one and only Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm, so head on over for all of today’s poetry links, and learn more about a brand new book being published by the folks responsible for the Poetry Friday Anthology series, Pomelo Books!

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29 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “Sunday afternoon, 1975”

  1. There’s so much I know from your poem, and so much I don’t know, Matt. It’s so sad from that little child’s point of view. The “don’t know” repetition is so telling about children’s wishing someone would just tell what’s going on! I’m glad you got to share!

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  2. Such a poignant poem, Matt. I was immediately drawn into the narrative. Shared custody? My heart goes out to the child, that in his world “ice cream” isn’t the innocent treat it is for other kids. Much suggested in a small space, nicely stated.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this, Matt. The unexpected pairing of Ice cream with the child’s story is poignant and powerful. Love these lines: “and all I can do is fight/ a shiver in my chest.”

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  4. dmayr

    Matt, despite all the adults associating the ice cream with an unpleasantness, I think that perhaps, in the years to follow, the child will cherish the memories of the routine of sharing ice cream with dad.

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    1. Except that he is not sharing the ice cream with dad. In the poem, The child gets whisked away by mom, who presumably then buys the ice cream to placate an upset child. But then again, perhaps I am experiencing a different scene than the reader!

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      1. dmayr

        Funny, but that’s not how I read it. I read it as the mother tsk-tsking the father for having taken the child out for ice cream AGAIN. (Implying “You’re going to spoil the child and make him/her fat.” Or perhaps, “You always do that–fill him/up on ice cream and then he/she won’t eat a proper supper.”) The final lines reinforced that image for me in that the father, through his body language, is saying sorry it was ice cream yet again.

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      2. Ah…interesting! In my mind, the father has made the mother mad for some reason – a situation that has apparently often been repeated – and so the mother is whisking the child away and is going to give him/her some ice cream (per usual) to try to soothe the tension of the argument. The father recognizes this pattern, and feels sorry the child is in the predicament of being offered ice cream (once again) to assuage the pain.

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      3. dmayr

        Well, that just proves to me that you left it vague enough so that the reader could fill in the blanks and “customize” the poem to fit his/her own experience, vision, or needs. That’s what a good poem should do, right?

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  5. I am seeing Diane’s interpretation of this, too. But really, even we are left in the dark as the child is, to make up our own story of these two adults… the “I don’t know why” is really the overlying theme. Ice cream is just a prop… could have been cookies! Very well written!

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  6. amyludwigvanderwater

    Sigh. Poems about the hard truths are very important, reminding each of us of our own, so unlike – yet so like – every other sadness. Thank you for this. xx

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