On the Radio [poem] by Robert Sabo

I never learned to listen

to music until I had to listen to music
I did not like.
My house was always full
of music when I was a boy;
music and the Everly Brothers until
my mother died, and country music afterwards.

I guess when my Dad couldn’t hold my mother’s hand anymore he needed
something to hold on to,
and the words
in the songs he listened to
helped him hold on
to the edge of the emptiness in him.

He would sit
in our kitchen, staring at nothing,
and listening to the radio.

I would listen too:
Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Kenny Rogers, Jim Reeves,
and wonder
how my Dad could deliberately hurt himself, over and over, playing
these testaments to loss and pain.

When I once asked him why
he listened to such sad music,
he acted as if he didn’t understand
me, and told me
that I would understand him when I was older.

I still don’t.

At the time, I became so sad that I started to cry,
and even though I’m not sure how,
I somehow ended up in my Dad’s
arms, his scratchy, calloused fingers
pulling my head into his shoulders,
the greasy smell of his body
after a day of work and the smoky smell of his
fingers wrapping me up
like a too-tight blanket.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

[Refer: this poem refers to the poem “The Cotter’s Saturday Night” by Robert Burns.]

Robert Sabo is a student of English at Moravian College. He lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Image by thetripwirenyc