Article

Musician, poet, and bike activist Ben Weaver offers a new poem on fatherhood, art, biking, and being present in the moment for all the above while interrogating the world around us.
June 21, 2016

Riding through the woods with the family. All photos courtesy of the Ben Weaver.

Fatherhood is an incredibly challenging, awakening, satisfying, alienating, tiring, and joyful endeavor. A friend, and also one of my favorite local “dad” poets, Chris Martin with the help of Coffee House Press hosted a Father's Day poetry reading this past weekend at Du Nord Craft Spirits. After the event, Chris gave me one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received. He said, “I appreciate the constant interrogation of the world in your work.”

As the world shifts, we in the younger generation reclaim the tattered planet that has been handed down to us by our parents and grandparents. I believe many paradigms are shifting, including what it means to be a father and, for that matter, a parent.

The “Ramble Ramble” series has been about exploring art on bikes. Both art and bikes are exceptionally broad subjects, and both are also key elements in the paradigm shifts taking place around us. I have appreciated the wide lenses both have afforded me through which to interrogate the world. Now, included in all that, is the art of parenting.

I spend a great deal of time with my kids outside in the woods, and I believe a healthy reclamation of this planet hinges on what and how we teach our children about the land we live on. We often spend more time worrying about the future than we do being present in the moments at hand. I see poetry as a way to discuss and express what it feels like to live with the changes that are happening around us as young parents: to be a part of the action, to make the commitment to remain present while on the roller coaster of emotions that belongs to accepting the realities of the world we have inherited, determined to keep ourselves, our children, and our places alive. 

Hawk Eyed Nephew clutched at the branch tops
displaced aquifers roaring beneath him
early warnings careened through the garden
there was the river mouth
and her dress with an asymmetrical hem,
fanning the flames of discontent

Lemons and limes, nickels and dimes

Part gift, part burden,
that’s what his father had always said
a cave full of sparrows
two-penny coffee and clemency

Some days you’ll laugh
some days you’ll cry,
all that water
chest high like horsebacks

There are two kinds of stories in the world,
either a stranger comes to town
or someone goes on a journey

It doesn’t matter where you sleep
behind hay bales, in stables
on the hood of a car, aperiodic,

up early,
with the blues in a sycamore

They say he was a devout itinerant,
an aesthetic rambler
a rock whose colors shown best in the rain,
but I never knew my dad

One smoldering night
a week or so before the warblers
got up this far north
Sister Chestnut wrapped some raspberries in a torn piece of screen,
I saw her
through the burdock
burying them beneath the porch
so we wouldn't lose the seeds

she was always leaving things behind
the way shells appear on the sand when the tide goes out

Her father said, It’s not lonely in these books
it’s lonely out in that world,
particularly when you note the discrepancies

Great Grandma never trusted the establishment
fish hooks in driftwood, she scattered sunlight throughout the ferns
walked the nine miles into town and back
reheated leftover coffee in the afternoons

I quit believing in the establishment before I was even aware of it,
went like a refrigerator dumped in the river
kindly out waiting with the stars

His dad used to say
the insurance bureau was the first breach of community
and, it’s a long way down to your boots,
the risks are what will stabilize you

In those days, if your barn burned down, the neighbors would come together
and help you build a new one

Hawk Eyed Nephew taught me to move pollen around,
he’d say, it just doesn’t feel right walking these hills
without something on my back

I learned to accept the unwished-for gifts
like mulberries crushed into the sidewalk
or pieces of her hair on the shower door,
tearing at the petals just to see,

and then,

there was this business of fathers,
like a lake soaking up the sky
handing down rainwater
one river at a time,

I never knew I could absorb so many daggers,
never imagined I might mend such light wings with these thick paws

But here I am
telling countless bedtime stories about Red Fox and Blue Deer
teaching them to build fires, cook food, fix bikes,
read the stars and distrust authority,

with my protector spirit, cawing alongside in the dark
I sing them to sleep,
lulling the degrees of impermanence
night after night,

“Nobody here will ever find me, I’ll always be around just like the songs I leave behind me,”

I see Sister Chestnut in the soup line
waiting with the leaf cutter bees
following Hawk Eyed Nephew’s footprints
along the bluffs,
I still look to them for answers,

but the truth is,
I invented both of them,
I made the whole thing up, because my father was a boatmen lost in thought
and I needed vitality,
mud on mud, pine and prairie,

I chipped out my own map
in order to survive this landscape,

Now, clutching the branch tops
bent over into the grade,
and rushing at the banks shirtless,

I need to know one last thing

What am I supposed to tell my children,
what about the loose ash and butterflies,
what about the discrepancies,
about this grape, that we’ve dropped in the sand?

As the bees move out of the clover
and the wind becomes a knife in the orchard
I look down into the one canyon that never erodes,
my heart,  all bound up in fly catcher tails
and a million miles,

Like all the fields at once — understand,
I am a part of nature,
not a member of society

This land is our only source of survival
and these kids, they are like everything wild,
the same principles apply,

To protect, we must nurture.

Related links and information:

Visit Ben’s website: http://www.benweaver.net for more information.

I Would Rather Be A Buffalo is Ben’s most recent record, from which you can listen to a selection of songs (or buy) here: http://www.benweaver.net/listen/. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @benweavermusic.

Ben Weaver is a songwriter, poet, cyclist, and printer. He has released eight studio albums of music and four books of poetry. The bicycle is Ben’s vehicle of choice for touring his music. His most recent bicycle powered tours include; tracing 1500 miles of the Mississippi River from Saint Paul to New Orleans and circumnavigating Lake Superior.

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