Tag Archives: anger

To The Young Man Who Cried Out “What Were You Thinking?” When I Backed Into His Car  

We all have such a lot on our minds these days.

“Reality is made up of circles but we see straight lines.”                                       Peter Senge

TO THE YOUNG MAN WHO CRIED OUT “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” WHEN I BACKED INTO HIS CAR                                                                            

Lynne Knight

I was thinking No. No, oh no. Not one more thing.

I was thinking my mother, who sat rigid

in the passenger seat crying, How terrible!

as if we had hit a child not your front bumper,

would drive me mad, and then there would be

two of us mad, mother and daughter, and things

would be easier, they said things would be easier

once she went to the other side, into complete total

madness. I was thinking how young you looked,

how impossibly young, and trying to remember

myself young, my body, my voice, almost another

person, and I wanted to weep for all I had let

come and go so casually, lovers, cities, flowers,

and then I was thinking You little shit for the way

you stood outside my window with your superior air

as if I were a stupid old woman with a stupid old woman

beside her, stood shouting What were you thinking?

as if I were incapable of thought, as I nearly was,

exhausted as I’d become tending my mother,

whom I had just taken to the third doctor in so many

days, and you shouting your rhetorical question

then asking to see my license, your li-cense, slowly,

as if I would not understand the word, and the lover

who made me feel as if I never knew anything

appeared then, stepped right into your body saying

What were you thinking? after I had told him, sobbed

to him, that I thought he was, I thought he was,

I thought we would—and then my mother began

to cry, as if she had stepped into my body, only years

before, or was it after, and suddenly I saw the whole

human drama writ plain, a phrase I felt I had never

understood until then, an October afternoon in Berkeley,

California, warm, warm, two vehicles stopped in

heavy traffic on campus, a woman deciding to make way

for a car trying to cross Gayley, act of random kindness

she thought might bring her luck then immediately—

right before impact—knew would be bad luck,

if it came, being so impure in its motive,

and then the unraveling of the beautiful afternoon

into anger and distress that would pass unnoticed

by most of the world, would soon be forgotten by those

witnessing the event, and eventually those experiencing it

while the sun went on lowering itself toward the bay

and ginkgo trees shook their gold leaves loose

until a coed on the way home from class, unaware

a car had backed into another car, unaware of traffic,

stopped to watch the shower of gingko, thought of Zeus

descending on the sleeping Danaë in a shower of gold,

and smiled over all her own lover would do

in the bright timeless stasis before traffic resumed.

Family Stories

Who can forget some of the times we saw anger expressed as a child? I come from a family that yelled at each other and at times there was brutal physical punishment. My husband comes from a family where, in particular, his mother punished with silence. His father covered everything with cheerful chatter. How people express anger is of interest to me. It is also exciting to me to imagine the the sight of the cake in the poem on it’s journey. See below! And to end with a question: How much do stereotypes of ethnicity influence how we express emotions?

Family Stories                                                                        Dorianne Laux

I had a boyfriend who told me stories about his family,

how an argument once ended when his father

seized a lit birthday cake in both hands

and hurled it out a second-story window. That,

I thought, was what a normal family was like: anger

sent out across the sill, landing like a gift

to decorate the sidewalk below. In mine

it was fists and direct hits to the solar plexus,

and nobody ever forgave anyone. But I believed

the people in his stories really loved one another,

even when they yelled and shoved their feet

through cabinet doors, or held a chair like a bottle

of cheap champagne, christening the wall,

rungs exploding from their holes.

I said it sounded harmless, the pomp and fury

of the passionate. He said it was a curse

being born Italian and Catholic and when he

looked from that window what he saw was the moment

rudely crushed. But all I could see was a gorgeous

three-layer cake gliding like a battered ship

down the sidewalk, the smoking candles broken, sunk

deep in the icing, a few still burning.


To Whoever Set My Truck on Fire

This is a great poem for discussion, but you may not like how it progresses. I used it in class during election week when many of us were distraught and did not know how we would continue to dialogue with half of our country. The opening lines are beautiful. And, who hasn’t started off on a good note trying to sort something disturbing out only to dissemble into something less than our best selves?

To Whoever Set My Truck On Fire                                                             Steve Scafidi

But let us be friends awhile and understand our differences

are small and that they float like dust in sunny rooms

and let us settle into the good work of being strangers

simply who have something to say in the middle of the night

for you have said something that interests me—something of flames,

footsteps and the hard heavy charge of an engine gunning away

into the June cool of four in the morning here in West Virginia

where last night I woke to the sound of a door slamming,

five or six fading footsteps, and through the window saw

my impossible truck bright orange like a maverick sun and

ran—I did—panicked in my underwear bobbling the dumb

extinguisher too complex it seemed for putting out fires

and so grabbed a skillet and jumped about like one

needing to piss while the faucet like honey issued its slow

sweet water and you I noticed then were watching

from your idling car far enough away I could not make

your plate number but you could see me—half naked

figuring out the puzzle of a fire thirty seconds from

a dream never to be remembered while the local chaos

of a growing fire crackled through the books and boots

burning in my truck, you bastard, you watched as I sprayed

finally the flames with a gardenhose under the moon

and yes I cut what was surely a ridiculous figure there

and worsened it later that morning after the bored police

drove home lazily and I stalked the road in front of my house

with an ax in my hand and walked into the road after

every car to memorize the plates of who might have done this:

LB 7329, NT 7663, and you may have passed by—

I don’t know—you may have passed by as I committed

the innocent numbers of neighbors to memory and maybe

you were miles away and I, like the woodsman of fairy tales,

threatened all with my bright ax shining with the evil

joy of vengeance and mad hunger to bring harm—heavy

harm—to the coward who did this and if I find you,

my friend, I promise you I will lay the sharp blade deep

into your body until the humid grabbing hands of what must be

death have mercy and take you away from the constant

murderous swinging my mind makes my words make

swinging down on your body and may your children

weep a thousand tears at your small and bewildered grave.