Austin Kelly, The Black Bear – Natalie Leslie is a junior majoring in Public Relations. Her hobbies include writing poetry and music, going to concerts, painting, glitter-ing, and hanging out with her dog.
Leslie got into poetry through her interest in music and joined the forensics team at her high school where she competed in poetry and prose. Her freshman year of college is when she started to write her own poems.
She joined the Untamed Tongues after going to an event and performing a piece for them, they later invited her to join which she did in her sophomore year.
Her poem “Recess” was inspired by her personal experiences, and the different emotions she was incapable of understanding as a kid. In this poem, she tells a serious story from the most vulnerable parts of herself, sprinkled with children’s metaphors revealing a perspective that can take a life time to gain.
If you’d like to see your work on the Black Bear site, please email Austin Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
i don’t know if i could ever again truly recognize the honesty in your voice as i did that day
truth jabbing into my eardrums
digging for validation with dry cotton swabs
as you cried “i am such a terrible father”
. . .
to see a grown man cry
that’s enough poetry in itself
unaccustomed to emotion
you were unaware of my presence.
parents screaming, teeter totters
up and down, back and forth
it’s not very much fun to live in a playground
when monkey bars are 21 and up
and always leave you hungover
hopscotch is served on the rocks
and red rover, red rover sends families right over
i’ve never been good at games and
i’m a little old for recess, so i had hoped you would’ve re-accessed when
she told you and I heard
‘you are a drunk, you need to be a better father,’
‘you aren’t ever here, you miss everything in these kids’ lives,’
hide and seek is a little traumatic , when you find what’s really been in plain sight
. . .
peeking out I saw him crying,
distraught was visibly swirling in his mind
with his head buried 6ft deep into his palms
trembling at the edge of my bed
as my mother slammed the downstairs door
startled by my company
he mumbled with vulnerability streaming from his ocean eyes,
“i’m sorry, Noodle, she’s right”
as a young child would comfort.
“it’s okay, it’s not true”
anything to make my hero strong again
but kryptonite, he said goodnight, he took that flight
did he think twice?
you had one job, to be my dad
do you still get unemployment?
i had never felt a lie through my teeth before that point
i wished that I could relive that moment a thousand and two mississippi times
to try and come up with the right words
to conjure up something like
i just wish you were around more. I wish you would not drink so much
“yea she’s right”
. . .
but 4th graders shouldn’t have to conjure up the grammatically-correct statement
to make their parents stay in their lives,
and children shouldn’t have to face the world
wondering why their father chose a bottle over loving them
over knowing them
over helping them grow into roses and sunflowers and orchids
. . .
children shouldn’t have to feel lies rub against their teeth like sandpaper
children shouldn’t have to feel their lips stapled shut with the truth,
weighed down by the last chance at a real relationship
throbbing in the back of their throat
they shouldn’t have to wrap their heads around why daddy can give Christmas presents
but not his presence
i started to make fun in this game of life
but children will always float through time wondering about their heroes
and after one sandpaper lie your teeth will be smooth enough to recognize new truths
the absence of you has taught me to plant within my own soul
gardens within my community
i learned to like recess again as the six foot sunflowers directed me to infinity and beyond
no buzz necessary
for once children learn how to grow
like roses and sunflowers
and fucking orchids
with or without “proper care,”
they will flourish,
even through staples..
G L O R I O U S
Image courtesy of Natalie Leslie.