“Our Parents are a Lost Cause,” by 2017 Youth Poet Laureate Lily Baumgart

Our Parents Are a Lost Cause

I told you to take our mother
into your timeless hands.
It takes effort for her to move her lips,
so let her tell you that she loves you,
let her ask you how school was,
and hide your leathered palms, as you will your calloused fingers.
Take her to the graveyard where our father is buried,
brother. Let her pick flowers from your neighbors’ gardens
and sprinkle them on the sidewalk
like it’s the church aisle she walked
down her first communion.
Brother, keep our mother away from me,
keep her veiled; as I want to remain
pure. Keep her wedding pearls
on her neck even if she has thrown
the ring away. This is how their faces
melt apart like wax falling
from candles. Find our father in her,
tell me when you see his teeth
behind her lips–tear her room apart
if it means that you will find his picture.
Brother, forgive me and our father
for leaving you. Know that it is the way
she chews gum and snores and loses herself without him
that causes our absence.
Brother, I have left to find our father
and if I have lost him, find him
in our mother. Pick her apart like chicken dinner
if you must; if I have been wrong,
cling to her aging memory and our father’s new face.
If they are to be presented together,
you must choose who to take home with you.

Lily Baumgart wrote this poem while she was a 2016-17 Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Finalist, which she performed at SAL’s 2016/17 Poetry Series event with Carl Phillips on May 2nd, 2017, at McCaw Hall.

Since this performance, SAL has awarded Lily the title of Seattle’s 2017/18 Youth Poet Laureate at the Northwest Folklife Festival on Saturday, May 27. Namaka Auwae-Dekker was also named the 2017/18 Youth Poet Laureate Ambassador, whose poem “Do Not Forget” you can read here.

As SAL’s next Youth Poet Laureate, Lily will receive a book deal with Penmanship Books, and Lily and Namaka will get a chance to share their powerful words at cultural events held throughout the year across the Puget Sound region. Tremendous congratulations and a round of applause to both writers!

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