While the story alluded to in the poem is all too common it is not my story. I chose not to have children. However, I know many people who do have this story and it's a painful one, I think we all agree. Things get very tangled and confused and a parent who loses his child is very close to despair or murderous rage. There is no pain like this one. I believe it's very difficult for many to see their own contribution to the mess in the middle of the suffering that losing one's child entails. This is my father's story.
I reconnected with my father a few years before he died. At one point I asked about his marriage to my mother and got such a heated response that I stopped talking about it. I was nearly 60 years old at this time. After all that time my father was still deeply disturbed by what had occurred and he offered to tell me about it. I of course knew the story from my mother's side.
My mother divorced my father citing I believe irreconcilable differences. She was given a modest child support which my father unfailingly sent for the first 18 years of my life. At the beginning of their divorce he would come and pick me up on Sundays and take me a variety of places where we spent our time together. I recall the MG that he drove. When my stepfather began to court my mother in earnest, my father began to pull back. When the new marriage was close, he stopped visiting with me altogether.
I do not recall ever being aware as a small boy of hostility between them. All this took place in the very early 1950s. 50 years later, my father was still plenty hostile. It was apparent that he felt my mother cheated him out of his firstborn son. He went on, married again, and built another family. He had two more sons.
I would look where you
pointed if I had courage
but it has leaked out
the holes left in me
by my poor choices after
she told those stories.
I chose to run, hide,
fight losing battles with ghosts
of all my losses,
with the harsh moment
of dread she left me in place
of my first born son.
Written September 3, 2010 9:01 AM
Modified January 4, 2014 9:32 PM
Wiki says: Wystan Hugh Auden (21 February 1907 – 29 September 1973), who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet, born in England, later an American citizen, regarded by many critics as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His work is noted for its stylistic and technical achievements, its engagement with moral and political issues, and its variety of tone, form and content. The central themes of his poetry are love, politics and citizenship, religion and morals, and the relationship between unique human beings and the anonymous, impersonal world of nature.
Some years ago my poetry took on a mythic flavor and I became a character in my own poems, a mage, "the man of the Northern Wall". This apellation is not completely fictional. My middle name is Noordwal, a Dutch term for north wall, though in current Dutch it mainly means north bank as in riverbank. I was told that an ancestor, a Portugese Jew escaping the Inquisition, settled in a small Dutch town and took this name from where he settled, near the north wall of the town. I have thought for a long time that -wal meant wall, think my mother told me that. A linguist might say that my usage is no longer common, is an older usage, but then the Inquisition happened in Portugal a few centuries ago, right around the time the Moors lost control of the Iberian Peninsula and the Jews lost the modest protection given them by Islam. Now I write as this mage, my poetry persona.