What About the Boy?

A Father's Pledge to His Disabled Son

by Stephen Gallup

Two Attempts at Poetry

PoetryMonthPoems because it’s National Poetry Month.

Sonnets because it’s the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s demise.

There’s a subtle San Diego theme in the first effort below just because I was responding to a random challenge to write a poem referencing my town.

And there are two because, after finishing the first I felt something more ought to have been said.

I knew more or less what was missing, but it didn’t start to gel until last week when I sat in on a rehearsal of my daughter’s youth orchestra. Those players are more than competent. Put any piece of music in front of them and they can get to the end of it very creditably, first time. But their conductor kept stopping them with admonitions to milk a little bit more out of every passage.

To the flutist, he said, “It sounds [long pause] ‘nice.’ But I want it to sound gorgeous!”

He said, beseechingly, “Trumpets, this is such a glorious cadenza. And Dvorak gave it to you! Celebrate it! ”

To the cellos: “Cuddle that low note!”

After listening in on such advice for a while, I began to perceive that he wasn’t necessarily talking about music. He could just as easily have been talking about maximizing consciousness of the moment, defeating expectations, waking people up. At one point he said, “I want a joy buzzer to go off. Do you know what a joy buzzer is?” I personally didn’t know the term and had to google it. But the message was clear, and it’s a concept I’ve been orbiting around for some time. Goal-oriented people want to achieve their goals. Everything between here and there is just a stepping-stone, of secondary importance at most. But goal attainment, wonderful though it is, remains a small part of life. Many goals are never achieved, and when achievement does occur, we don’t stop there. New challenges take shape, and off we go again. We tend never to be satisfied.

I see this problem when my younger son, Braxton, practices a piece of music on his violin. He appears to view each note as a stepping-stone to get to the end. But reaching the end isn’t really the point. I try to impress that notion upon him but stop and realize I make the same mistake every day.

And so I followed up with the second poem below, as an answer to the first. This too falls short of my intention, probably because I don’t see how the moment blends with eternity, our ultimate goal. Maybe later the Muse will help with a third effort.



Brought here to help make rockets pierce the sky,
I joined GD in hopes that we were bound
For Mars, a triumph, no one would deny.
Shortfalls in funding kept us on the ground.

So folks could stay connected on the go,
I joined Qualcomm and thought I was so blessed
To be involved in trends that don’t plateau.
Instead, they crash, I sadly must attest.

Engaged always by pressing family needs,
I sought to serve my hurt son’s climb toward health.
Success in this would top my other deeds.
Just helping him: the purest form of wealth.

Let me finish something before I die.
I strive in good faith, yet time just goes by.




Of countless runs I’ve made to Urgent Care,
Bearing ailing loved ones, and feeling scared,
None involved news that anyone was maimed.
The upshot was: Things stayed about the same.

Of likely outcomes to prospects each day,
Whether viewed with confidence or dismay,
Most fade as yet other issues arise.
Few fears or desires materialize.

If ends good or bad recede as I go,
If the here and now is lost in the flow,
Maybe the answer lies closer to hand.
Maybe I’ve forgotten: Each day is grand.

Show me a way to put aside this strife.
And know instead every moment is life.



Comments are closed.