Poems don’t kiss on the first date

I think of poems as gifts I have loved from the time I was a child listening to my father read to us in the evening. He was fond of narrative poems—The Highwayman; The Cremation of Sam McGree; The Song of Hiawatha. And, of course, Poe’s poems: The Bells, The Raven, Annabel Lee. How lovely it was to sit by the potbelly coal stove in the back parlor and listen to Daddy read aloud. How lucky we were not to have the distraction of television, IPads, Smartphones, and video games. How intriguing to imagine the worlds these poems opened up for us children living in a small, coal-mining town in Northeastern Pennsylvania. We didn’t know it then, of course. We didn’t know that we were lucky; we just felt warm and cozy. We’d snack on baked sweet potatoes or freshly popped popcorn or cinnamon toast and tea while Daddy read and Ma crocheted and Tom, the cat, napped. Happy end of April, everyone.


Listening to Daddy Read

We gather

Around the coal stove,

Daddy sitting atop the piano stool,

His back erect,

Glasses perched on the bridge of his nose.


“What shall I read today?”


“The Cremation of Sam McGree!”

“NOOO! That’s too scary!”
“How about that baseball poem,

The one about the home run…”

“Casey at the Bat?”

“But it’s too short.

Will you read more than one, Daddy?”


Daddy shushes us.

“Here’s one you haven’t heard before.

It’s called The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”


One lamp shines on Ma’s sewing;

Another illuminates the page.

We sit in dimness, listening,


ice, mast-high, came floating by

As green as emerald.


The skinny mariner

And his tale

Captivate us,


We don’t get it all.

Not the first night.

Nor the second.

Not even the third.


“That’s okay,” Daddy says.

“Poems don’t kiss on the first date.”



We learned that

poetry does embrace.


It embraces me still





“Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance.” Carl Sandburg


10 thoughts on “Poems don’t kiss on the first date

  1. I, too, loved the narrative poems. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” was always one of my favorites. And Poe… I just fell in love with the word “tintinnabulation” after reading “The Bells”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Holy Carumba! Your poem put me right there with your family. I am halfway in love with your father. My mother read and recited poetry to us when we were young. There were so many she knew by heart. My partner and I read poetry to our children. How they loved listening to Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Sanburg as well as Prelutsky and others, even when they didn’t understand the words.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love everything about this post — especially the title and how that line was used in the poem. Simply beautiful. Your dad had many layers to him… I love getting to know him through your posts. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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