June and July, 2018

The Take Archives

 

Ever wonder how journal editors make decisions about work to feature? The Take gives you a glimpse behind the scenes at Mud Season Review. Here, we feature one single poem that caught the attention of the editorial team, apart from the signature poetry portfolio of our bi-monthly issues. We hear from the author about the inspiration for his or her work, and we hear from a poetry co-editor about why the poem stood out.

 

June 24, 2018

 

By Robert Fillman

Day Breaking

On cold days when the dawn
seemed determined to drag

the whole sky back to bed,
I would find my uncle

propped on our porch, whiskey
red stranger’s face, first light

breaking as he unmade
his life, night after night.

In dream, he’d roll his head
on our rocker, snoring

like a bent exhaust pipe,
wincing in his wool cap

when the wind lashed him good.
Slumped in the spot where I

penciled answers to those
tough story problems, tripped

over his brown bag of
words, pretended I could

tiptoe past his shadow,
not see him anymore.

 

Author’s Statement
This is a poem in which I try to recreate the painful ambivalence an adult sometimes experiences when looking back on one’s childhood, on family members whom you may be ashamed of, or struggle to disavow, even as you nevertheless recognize their humanity. I never write strictly autobiographical poems, so while many of the concrete elements of “Day Breaking” are invented, the residual feelings that haunt the speaker are grounded in relatable points of reference.

 

From the Poetry Editors
The power of this piece lies in Fillman’s startling imagery and metaphor: “snoring like a bent exhaust pipe” and “tripped over his brown bag of words” stopped our hearts. It can be tempting to depict flawed loved ones by laying it on too thick. Here, the touch is light and without judgment. It’s a complete story in one compact scene, with characters in relationship, vivid setting, dramatic tension and unresolved conflict. In ten couplets, the poem delivers an emotional punch, much like the best flash fiction. We think readers will be drawn again and again to these lines.