‚to save my life by saving yours‛ Rug rats. Ankle biters. Mad munchkins. Germ factories. Demon spawn. Those are some of the kinder words I’ve used to name what most people simply call children. Ever since I entered puberty I knew I wanted to live a child-free life. Now at 57, and like a handful of my closest friends, I am. With no regrets. None of us got the gene that demands procreation. The truth is I don’t enjoy children. They’re noisy and messy and contagious. Am I selfish? Most likely. Smart? Absolutely. Why destine a child to a life of abuse? Why bring yet another human being into a world that is already overburdened by the weight of our species? I admit I’ve made a few exceptions to my All-Children-Left-Behind rule. I love my step-granddaughter, Zora, my friend Katie’s boy, Sage, and friend Annie’s girls, Aelis and Tamsin. And a little girl named Sawyer has stolen my selfish-smart heart in the pages of Scott Owens’ new book of poetry, Paternity. As it was with my February review in The Centrifugal Eye, I’ve been forced to leave my baggage at the front cover. The Tao of Poetry has led me into another book tailor-made to stretch my understanding of the human condition. Instead of an exercise in spirituality,
Paternity has opened my eyes to the wonders of parenthood.
What it lacks in lush imagery, exquisite phrasing and surprising metaphors,
Paternity more than compensates readers with candor about life as a parent — a candor ‚that touches the heart of the readers,‛ said poet and Owens’ cheerleader Glenda G. Beall, who recommended the book be reviewed in these pages after having interviewed Owens in Flutter. She gushed in her TCE Reader’s Survey, ‚I sat down and read the book from front to back without stopping.‛ I, on the other hand, took baby steps, letting the poems’ emotive impact — their candor — creep up on me, getting used to the cold reality of parenthood little by little. So I sampled first ‚The Hours,‛ the book’s longest poem, but one divided into a dozen subtitled parts beginning with ‚5 A.M.‛ and ending at ‚3 A.M.‛ In other words, 22 hours in the life of a young father in short, snapshot stanzas. I followed Owens and ‚the baby‛ from the ‚magic time of becoming‛ to ‚the unwanted weight of worry‛ that comes in the wee hours. Owens tells it like it is, whether it’s ‚her morning breath‛ or her ‚mastering manipulation of toys / and friends.‛ She is a ‚constant disruption of joy.‛ So this is what it’s like to parent. Ah so! And this is what it’s like: