Thursday, September 06, 2007


Maurice Kenny

He was gonna teach us...
my sisters and me how not to smoke
or drink burning whiskey, and
oh to swim in the lake...
much to my mother's screaming and
flailing arms in summer air.
(She hated the Chaumont Bay
cottage with a passion. A camp
he near worshipped and we kids
adored from late June to late
August.) He knew he was right,
my mother wrong; it was done
only for our good and safety.
He'd load us into the rowboat
one at a time, myself last
as the youngest of three, row
out 25 or 50 feet and dump
the kid overboard, and force
a swim home even if yhou
didn't know'd learn
on the spot was his philosophy.
Later we had cigars to smoke
and vomit. Then he brought
out the whiskey bottle.
Forced us to drink until drunk,
and very very sick. At six
I became an alcoholic.
It didn't work so well, but he
had good intentions.

Saranac Review, #3, 2008

Maurice Kenny is a poet, publisher and professor. His book Blackrobe was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and, in 1984, he won the American Book Award for The Mama Poems. Kenny's work has appeared in nearly 100 journals. Presently, he teaches at SUNY Potsdam.


Anonymous said...

This reminds me of Ferlinghetti's 'Fortune has its cookies to give out...', only darker and less playful. The swimming, whiskey and cigars bring back memories of my childhood in the '70s and early '80s--only thing this poem is missing is Kiss, Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath on the 'soundtrack'!

Brian Campbell said...

I'll have to look up that poem. Welcome back.

Brian Campbell said...

Here it is, along with others from "Coney Island".

Quite different in tone, but very much the same, too. (Everything is different and the same... that about sums it all up, doesn't it?)