Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Man I Loved, Stripped Naked

This first poem is about me and my StepDad. Robert Henry Hileman was a Marine in WWII, just old enough to get in at the last, landed in Okinawa and was headed to invasion of the main islands when the bomb stopped it all. The other man was my real father, Vance Leonidas Teague. He was a genuine war hero, in the army air corps as a co-pilot, the plane all shot up and the pilot dead and all of them wounded, he with arterial bleeding in his calf, tourniquet and the presence of mind to fly the thing back to land it all broken up.

My mother married this man, then realised that she had made a mistake. She had me and left him. He was convinced to his dying day that she tricked him somehow, got what she wanted, took me from him. So when Stormy Hileman (he was a football hero on the Cal Rosebowl team of 48 I think it was; then he tried for, almost made a professional slot on the 49ers) got serious about marrying Mom, Vance, my father stopped his regular Sunday visits with me.

I have no idea what really happened in that two year marriage, which was my mother's second(...she annulled her first. She also annulled her fourth, and was married five times. She always said she had affinity with Liz Taylor, knew just what Liz was about.) I do know that near the end of his life we were in contact and I made a small remark and got quite a letter back. His wound after nearly fifty years was still fresh.

I was a childhood asthmatic and really was pretty sick. This man Stormy married us anyway, what was to be an eighteen year marriage.

The Man I Loved

I was only four,
A sick little boy, breathing
The air of two men.

One came on Sundays
To take me places, I said,
"See you someday." (Wow)

The other came by
More often, and I asked him
"Would you be my Dad?"

He married my Mom
Soon after. That's when they said
It was me proposed.

January 5, 2009 2:46 PM


Damn. The heart attack changes everything. This too feels prophetic. In fact I have no idea now what the original referent was, though I am often found reaching for heaven in this poetry I write, or so it seems to me.

Stripped Naked

My stark lightning bones
Are thin, and look quite fragile
Reaching for heaven.

I was stripped naked
By a mighty wind
While sure I should stand my ground.

Then you come along,
Take my last picture
Before I fall down silently,
Old before my time.

January 6, 2009 9:15 AM


  1. Sad. Or not, maybe it's just me.

    I feel the love there though...

    the second, wow


  2. See you someday...the confusion that we cause the children in our lives with disrupted relationships.Then they grow up to be writers and poets just to be able to sort it all out. Hit home with this one friend. All the best, LL

  3. The first poem; what a totally beautiful experience, i can see the 3 of you smiling from ear to ear :)
    I come from a family, no divorces, everybody stays together at all cost...:)

  4. Michelle, my friend, like all realities, there can so seldom be pure emotional moments. Pure joy without some grief, even pure anger. So seldom are things that simple. I have been to the core of me as I stood alone and very small in the world and what I found there was bewilderment. I am the bewildered one, one big question mark. All else is confusion.

    Of course there is sadness in that first poem. There is much more. I transferred my affection easily. I like people, always have, find more of them disliking me than I dislike them.

    What loomed much bigger in my life was the simple problem of breathing. So much of the planet was poisonous to me when I was small.

    Lorenzo, thank you for saying this. There is much truth in it, though for me the disconnect has gone deeper than the loss of my real dad. The disconnect is with the world, because I could not be in it for so much of my childhood. That means all people, really and being alert for the poisons all around me. And it means fighting for my breath and getting so tired of it I just wanted to leave. My impulse to reconciliation lies in that, a deeper sense of isolation...this is not my world, or else I would fit better, like other people I plainly see. If I had been born even ten years earlier, I would have died before I was five.

    Jozien, there was a time in my high school years, I lived next door to the Hansens. This was a family I loved, was sure was like the family I wished for. Two sisters and a brother. They got along all tangled up just like everyone else but there was an obvious love in it all. I ached so much for that life that finally in my early college years I actually arranged to live there for a while with them.

    I felt that my family was too odd. I yearned to be "normal". I remember actually crying out for that. When I did my parents had nothing to say, nothing I can remember. What could they say? I am not sure they could even see what gave me so much pain, but if they could, how could they do anything to change it? I was in effect demanding a whole different life.

  5. "The Man I Loved" - other than the proposal - probably isn't that uncommon an occurrence today as it was in your youth. In schools, we can usually count on three parents per child...

    "Stripped Naked" - I love everything about it. Was going to quote lines, but it's the whole.

  6. I think words hold power and there is so much power in these penned words. Life can make a man weak, but never does it make weak his ability to paint strength through words.

    Nicely written

  7. The title of this post reads most interestingly.

    Stripped naked does sound quite prophetic. Then again, we all end up there, one day. Though not all of us have a witness.

  8. Karen, thanks. I am fond of Stripped Naked too. And I know that divorce is much more common now. That makes a difference by itself, because it is the common condition, and causes the other kid to feel a little odd because he only has one dad or whatever. But that wasn't the deal exactly for me. At least I don't recall it ever coming up. I was fine with my new dad and nothing happened at school about it. We moved too much and it happened too early anyway.

    Missy, thank you for saying so. It's "just" poetry, you know? I mean, I am not really trying to write a catharsis. I have this stuff already worked out. It is true stuff but not only that. As people know who read me, I do fantasy too.

    Rachel, be careful with that witness stuff, as if there is really a time when you are not under witness. Privacy is a cherished illusion. I was aware of the title of this post. :) I am old enough that that kind of stuff just doesn't matter much anymore. I am not too worried.

  9. This really moved me. Beautiful Christopher, stunning.

  10. Thank you, Ida, I enjoy your photos, visit often but don't say anything lots of times. I'm a little shy with you. Don't know why.

  11. What's there to say of that first one? You as little boy, breathing air of two men, you asking - beautiful.

    The second, startling. I often wonder if our bones know things, our metaphors, before we do.

    (Thank you for getting it over at my place today. I think many didn't quite want to of me.)

  12. Erin, Yes, I have no clue whether or not that is just the dark side of me, not a prediction at all. But it is startling. The first is of course a true story. I was a friendly little boy.

    And about getting you on your blog, there are people who have never been in that bathroom, I suppose. The last thing going on in there is sex, for one, not at that time, and for the rest, if you know, then you know and if you don't, or if you feel bad about it, then let's talk about something else please.

    But that was my world for a long time, not the lines per se, but other stuff, serious stuff.

  13. I love these bits of family history you share. I've heard much of it before, of course, but it makes more sense in writing.

  14. wow! that innocent voice in the first one really touches deep...

    the ending is great!

    yes the seconed one is so prophetic... your intuition saw what was going on in you...


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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