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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

Fathering The Sickness (AKA Ministering to the Sick)

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

Guest Poetry by Hakim Bellamy

Albuquerque, NM, Poet Laureate and DCG DADvisory Team Member

I’ve noticed during this time of social distancing and isolation that it has been a challenge for some when it comes to self-distancing. More of us seem to find it harder to dwell within during this time of ubiquitous foreboding and the steady drumbeat of the mounting and unrelenting death toll.

Some find it uncomfortable to spend increasing amounts of time with themselves. Others may learn to embrace it. It can be a time for the kind of introspection that allows for new insights, as well as an opportunity to see gifts where we may not have noticed them or fully appreciated them. If we become mindful of these new insights and use them to recalibrate priorities in the days/daze ahead, it can serve as a balm for our bruised souls, can strengthen our resolve, and may even serve as a self-administered vaccine to prevent a pandemic of our spirit, and to provide a more mindful, sensitive roadmap into the future.

With this in mind, we're proud to present this week's Daddying guest post, a poem titled "Fathering the Sickness" by Hakim Bellamy. To say Hakim is a loving dad, an admired poet, and a dear friend is an understatement on all counts. He and his work mean and do so much more than any of those labels could possibly convey. One glance at his professional bio below, and you'll get some idea of what I'm talking about.

Now I'll step aside so you may experience Hakim's inspiring voice in a piece he says is "much more personal than the pandemic." We're grateful he's provided Daddying this never-before-published poem as an exclusive. Please share and, as always, daddy on. - Allan

You can LISTEN to Hakim recite his poem as you read along

Hakim, wife Francesca, Kaylem & Allan Shedlin
Hakim w/ fiancee Francesca, son Kaylem & Allan Shedlin

Fathering The Sickness

(AKA Ministering to the Sick)

Dad wouldn’t have done anything different in a pandemic.

He was always stockpiling essentials.

Long before his memories were unhoardable,

he was practicing loss.

He was already fasting.

Already praying alone.

Volunteered rainy day smiles,

even when he didn’t have to,

so we’d have enough happy saved up

to light our way through the power outages.

He knew one day

We’d need each other

more than we needed anything else.

Including attention.

Including connection.

He already new the difference between the Depression

and a blessing.

He would have called this both,

and only occasionally remind us

of the sadness that every so often overwhelms

the father of three Black men,

exhausted from seven decades

of successfully protecting them from things

they cannot see

that are trying to kill them.

We were already his social life.

We were what he did for fun.

So much parent assigned homework

we felt homeschooled

from jump.

This would have been nothing new.

Up until the last two years of his life,

when he could no longer talk

...only smile…

He would remind us that the sabbath

means different things

to different people.

That the Lord’s Day is equal parts 52 Easters

and a weekly vacation

cause God rested and rose on the same day.

He’d long been concerned about "spiritual distancing,"

so I’m pretty damn sure he wouldn’t have changed

a thing.

In our house,

we grew up standing in line for food,

like his parents grew up standing in line

for bread.

Eight months before any of this,

as we all held hands surrounding his hospice bed,

he made sure he wouldn’t die alone,

so we didn’t have to.

A proper philosopher, but a poor prophet,

Dad’s predictions were always the same.

"Love is the future, not fear."

Dad would die before canceling church,

just like he’d die to protect his flock…

so perhaps that’s why he decided to disappear.

He might not have seen any of this coming.

But for some reason

he knew he’d need to saddle up

a big ol’ family on a ration of staples

and supplies

that cost so much more

than love.

And somehow he also knew

when enough was enough.

© Hakim Bellamy, April 5, 2020


When not renowned as "Kaylem's Dad," Hakim Bellamy is the inaugural Poet Laureate of Albuquerque, NM (2012-2014). He is the Deputy Director of Cultural Services for the City of Albuquerque and a national and regional Poetry Slam Champion. Hakim holds three consecutive collegiate poetry slam titles at the University of New Mexico, and his poetry has been published in the Albuquerque Convention Center, on the outside of a library, in inner-city buses, and included in numerous anthologies across the globe. He has been named "Best Poet" in the Weekly Alibi’s annual "Best of Burque" poll every year since 2010. His first book, SWEAR, won the Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing from the Working Class Studies Association. Prayer Flag Poems is a collection inspired by his travels to Nepal and written to raise awareness for those affected by the April 2015 earthquake. The collection We Are Neighbors includes 24 photos and 24 short stories. His children's book, Samuel's Story, is a multimedia story set to music. Hakim also facilitates youth writing workshops for schools, jails, churches, prisons, and community organizations in New Mexico and beyond. His work has been featured on AlterNet, Truthout, CounterPunch, and the nationally-syndicated Tavis Smiley Radio Show. He holds an M.A. in Communications from the University of NM and is the founding president of Beyond Poetry LLC.


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