The Daddying Ties That Bind
Harmonized Poetry by DCG Founder Allan Shedlin and
Albuquerque, NM, Poet Laureate DCG DADvisor Hakim Bellamy
EDITOR'S NOTE: Allan interviewed "Bobby," the young boy from THE SUITCASE, this week's first daddying poem below, on October 15, 2000, in Columbia, MD. Bobby (not his real name) was 52 at the time he became Allan's 5th Daddying interview.
Bobby had two daughters, 21 and 16, and shared how difficult it had been for him to balance a career with parenting and wished he had been more involved when his kids were younger. He noted, however, that he was more involved than his dad had been.
When Bobby's daughters were born, he remembered: "almost floating, because I was so happy."
As with many dads Allan has interviewed over the years, Bobby had a sense of forgiveness for his own dad's absence. When asked what message he'd like to give his dad now that he was an adult, Bobby said:
In case you feel guilty about not being more present, you can feel less bad because I turned out OK.
Perhaps Bobby also meant for those words to reassure himself that he had done the best HE could. And maybe that was enough.
Please enjoy and share your thoughts with us on this week's thought-provoking, lyrical daddying duo:
by Allan Shedlin
At first glance
it's hard to tell what little Bobby is sitting on.
Can you guess?
He sits atop his small suitcase.
Can you guess what’s in it?
The suitcase is filled with his father’s neckties.
The ones he didn’t take with him when he left on his latest business trip.
Bobby's father was a traveling salesman,
more often absent than present.
Sometimes absent even when he was present.
Carrying around his father’s ties was one way for Bobby to keep his father with him
when he wasn’t – a talisman of sorts.
At 4 years old, Bobby didn't have all the words to express his feelings
when his father left, nor how much he wanted his father to be with him.
Until then, he had his suitcase
filled with his father's ties.
Fathers are important in their presence
but also in their
Every tie a tuck away from being a tail. A price away from being a tag. A loop around the neck of my Dad, I used to wonder how he could breathe. He simply said, “We used to work for free.” He always found a way to make respectability politics revolutionary. For men like him, other than shaving it was the only time vanity was permissible. An uncomfortable duration of same-sex eye contact. The daily staring contest between him and himself peacocking knot after knot. To him it made a poor noose. Besides, a noose could never be that pretty. It was a makeshift rope ladder for all the ambitions within him. Part paddle, part propeller. It was a ritual of hugging himself without hugging himself. It was showing us that showing up for your family is serious business so dress like it. To him, work wasn’t a sacrifice it was a crucifixion. Just like the last time I saw him in one. The only thing cross other than his arms. We should have buried him in a bow tie, Because he was a gift, and we returned him with all the tags.
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 Poemsis 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 PoetryLLC.
Allan Shedlin has devoted his life’s work to improving the odds for children and families. He has three daughters, a “bonus” son, five grandchildren, and three “bonus” grandchildren. Trained as an educator, Allan has alternated between classroom service, policy development, and advising. After eight years as an elementary school principal, Allan founded and headed the National Elementary School Center for 10 years. In the 1980s, he began writing about education and parenting for major news outlets and education trade publications, as well as appearing on radio and TV. In 2008, he was honored as a "Living Treasure" by Mothering Magazine and founded REEL Fathers in Santa Fe, NM, where he now serves as president emeritus. In 2017, he founded the DADvocacy Consulting Group. In 2018, he launched the DADDY Wishes Fund and Daddy Appleseed Fund. In 2019 he co-created and began co-facilitating the Armor Down/Daddy Up! and Mommy Up! programs. He earned his elementary and high school diplomas from NYC’s Ethical Culture Schools, BA at Colgate University, MA at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and an ABD at Fordham University. But he considers his D-A-D the most important “degree” of all.