Evolution: poem by Dennis Doherty

At my birth, Sputnik penetrated space and
The Beatniks penetrated suburbia.
Then the enemy was in a place called
Cuba and the president got shot. First thing
they gave me to suck on was the news.

When I was born I realized that adults
were liars, and teachers, hypocrites.
The local police learned my features,
so I hitched the continent twice
and learned the face of America.

When I was born I woke up naked
in the Plaza Hotel with a newly bald head,
beaten into subterfuge, craftiness,
with mental strength and an older woman
beside me wearing my dog tags.

I was born in the belly of a warship
as it shuddered out of drydock
to a GONZO tour at sea, saw other
young men give themselves to the swells
forever, considered limitations.

When I was born the doctor grabbed
me by the lapels and shoved my face
near my dying mother’s bed. “Do you
know who this is? Tell me!” he commanded her.
Trembling for wrong answers, she asked, “No?”
I don’t remember the color of her eyes.
The color of her eyes was fear.

I was born into fatherhood. “I didn’t
ask to be born!” I protested. “Too Dad!”
they replied. I woke up mornings
with three girls in the bed. They sewed
on my muscles and straightened my head.

When I was born I’d lived a long span.
The speech of things new, a friend
to open with the strangeness of song.
We touch who we know with the stroke
of a breath – a pen. I’ll take you
to the ocean, but bring you back again.

I am born into answers for which
only I asked in the dark of my poem,
the magus of interstice and meaning,
molting into the bravery of learning,
alone in the cosmos with a given name:
a god-eye for re-cognition and time.
I’ve birthed a world which we might call love.


Dennis Doherty is author of four volumes of poetry: The Bad Man (Ye Olde Fontshoppe Press, 2004), Fugitive (Codhill Press, 2007), Crush Test (Codhill Press 2010), and Black Irish (Codhill Press 2016). He has also written a partial memoir, partial historical study, Why Read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (New Street Communications, 2014). Essays, poems, and stories appear throughout the literary press. He teaches creative writing and literature at SUNY New Paltz.

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