Iowa Writes

For My Father and His Mother

Why do I never write about my father?
Younger, he was a quiet, religious son—handsome then as Elvis,
Who has never spoken much about his brothers.

Mom, (and always I asked her) what cousin or other
Relative of ours is this?
—hoping one might be distant enough—to kiss.
Why does he hardly ever speak about his brothers? . . .

That was a question I didn't ask, even of her,
Who told me they were older, and how each died, once or twice.
Why do I never write about my father?

Whose own father died somehow, sometime in there&mdash
My father, Tom, nineteen—all his elders, gone in eighteen months.
Why does he never speak about his brothers?

His own father? Who now ever says their names? Not grandmother.
Presbyterian, patrician, un-remarried—is her heart like his?
Why do I never write about my father?

If I do&mdashhere&mdashwith some restraint&mdashI'm still afraid I'll stir
His old deaths up—that have&mdashand might again&mdashravage us to silence.
Why do I never just write about my father?
Why does he hardly speak about his own, or his brothers'?

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting


Mary Jane White's translation of Marina Tsvetaeva's elegy for Rainer Maria Rilke, New Year's, was published in 2007 by Adastra Press. A portion of her translation of Tsvetaeva's "Poem of the End" will appear in Notre Dame Review in the Spring of 2009. Mary practices law in Waukon, Iowa.  White's translation of Marina Tsvetaeva's Poem of the End (26 pp) will appear in the Winter Special Translation Issue of The Hudson Review, edited by Paula Dietz.

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on January 06, 2009

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