“Imagine”: A Poem for My Son on the Night Before He Starts College
My life has, over the past few months, changed in some monumental ways. My mother died in early July; we had our issues, but now if feels as if an enormous presence in the world has gone (or, as Springsteen puts it in a song: “I woke up this morning and something big was gone”). I miss her.
And I’ve decided to move back to Hoboken, where I belong. I’m in the process of buying my first home.
Finally, my son, Sandro, is moving into his college dorm tomorrow. Middle school and high school were tempestuous for us both; Sandro weathered so much with grace and dignity and perseverence, and it’s finally time for him to see for himself that, as they say, “It gets better.”
Not that high school didn’t have its (really) high points–it’s where Sandro really started to discover his talents as an actor, a singer, and a guitar and piano player and, more recently, as a composer.
The following poem is one I wrote shortly after I saw him sing a solo at his school’s Spring Chorus Concert. I think that I was about as astonished as I’ve ever been in my life when he began to sing–I’d had no idea what a beautiful voice he had. And the song… Parenting doesn’t get much better than nights like that.
So, as a tribute to my incredibly talented, kind, smart, honest, funny, and so many other things son Sandro, as he heads off into (as he said yesterday) the beginning of the rest of his life, I wanted to post this poem:
Wise is the child of disaster.
So silent in the mornings now, all day
slow to speak. He’s been sighing at the way
the world behaves, the human way it’s done.
Crisis in his core of dream: he’s fifteen.
It had to come. Not that he can hear it now,
not from me, but he’s the boy whose infant eyes
of all the neon facets of First Avenue
addressed the patient ghost of moon,
child who saw the silent songs of daffodils
defiant of the snow, the frozen
unrelenting dirt below. He blooms too, voice
a revelation as he sang
Imagine, for three minutes gone,
ascension, glory and misgiving
in an auditorium and all was hushed
and stunned and dark around him
and he didn’t even know. I would say,
if he could hear it, Let it go, let it go.
Take the Les Paul, the daydream drift of mind
that touches everything, prismatic
intellect and young boy’s eyes. Find God’s voice
in the certain currents of your own,
take your fix of grief, your smarting hands,
get to where the strong stars overslip, master
your music, goad with outrageous compassion.
Hit the road. Misread notes of the indifferent songs
you’ll be told to play, walk offstage,
strive to get the way it’s done