The Sunday Poem: Iain Haley Pollock

 

 

 

 

Child of the Sun

 

Great Great Aunt Aida
trained her lapdog
to attack dark-skinned men.
A shake of her high-yaller head
and a suck on her ivory teeth,
and the Scottish terrier slipped
through the fence pickets
to nip at a tar baby’s ankles.

Somewhere in her heaven,
Aunt Aida fusses today:
the lightest Haley yet,
naked to the waist
in a plastic lawn chair,
I’m a line cook browning
limbs in a skillet’s thick oil,
a tanner of calf hide
curing skin in the sun.

Aida dreamed the family
would fade into a whiteness
of table manners and book learning,
and with me she came close.
But Mom must have eaten
a pig’s foot when she was pregnant,
or dialed up the volume on those
Aretha records. Or I took it too hard,
that time in the grocery store

when a woman confused Mom
for my nanny–I bronze in the yard
all afternoon, hoping to blind
my eyes with scales and molt
like a sidewinder, to leave behind
a trail of skin, brittle, flaking, and white,
cracking and split in the sun.

 

 

 

 

 

About Iain Haley Pollock

(Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths)

Iain Haley Pollock’s first collection of poems, Spit Back a Boy, won the 2010 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. He lives in Philadelphia and teaches at Springside Chesnut Hill Academy, where he is the Cyrus H. Nathan ’30 Distinguished Faculty Chair for English.

 
In the January/February 2012 issue of Poet’s and Writers, Pollock says that he finds inspiration for his work from “Stories of family, friends, and neighbors; the high murder rate in Philadelphia; the early Chicago electric blues; the Catholic Mass; the endurance of slavery; autumn; the jazz of Miles Davis and Charles Mingus; Jewish mourning rituals; the painter Barkley Hendricks; the trees on the Schuylkill River walk and at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy; Philadelphians’ eccentricities; lake-effect snow; and, of course, the beautiful woman with whom I live.”

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“Child of the Sun” © Iain Haley Pollock. The poem appears in Pollock’s debut collection Spit Back a Boy and was reprinted with permission from the author.

 

By | 2016-11-11T21:53:32+00:00 12.30.11|The Sunday Poem, Words|1 Comment

About the Author:

I’ve spent almost 20 years helping thousands of successful artists of all disciplines and working to make the arts more accessible. (One friend likes to call me “the arts enabler.”) From 1999-2012 I worked at The MacDowell Colony, the nation’s oldest artist colony, but I've also done time at an arts magazine, a library, an art museum, and a raptor rehabilitation center. In May of 2012 I left MacDowell to pursue writing, speaking, curating, and creative projects full-time. In 2015 I was named a “Top 100 Artist, Innovator, Creative” by Origin magazine. I've appeared as an arts and culture commentator on New Hampshire Public Radio, and in 2017 I was the recipient of the Wampler Art Professorship at James Madison University. I am the founder of the Gwarlingo Salon series, which connects artists like DJ Spooky with rural audiences in the Monadnock region. In 2017 my collaborator Corwin Levi and I will publish our first book, Mirror Mirrored, which combines Grimms’ fairy tales with vintage illustration remixes and the work of contemporary artists like Kiki Smith, Carrie Mae Weems, and Amy Cutler. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, but have called New Hampshire home since 1999. My studio is located in the historic, mill village of Harrisville. I miss fried okra, the early southern spring, and restaurants that stay open past 9:00 p.m., but rural life agrees with me. In New Hampshire I can see the stars, go kayaking or snowshoeing, watch bald eagles fish in the lake, and focus on my creative work in silence. I no longer have to worry about traffic jams; deer, wild turkeys, and frost heaves are the primary road hazards here. Although I live in the country, I’m fortunate enough to be part of a vibrant arts community that extends beyond this small New England village. The quiet days are punctuated by regular travel and frequent visits to museums, theaters, readings, arts events, lectures, and open studios around the country. (You can read my full CV here.) Thanks for visiting Gwarlingo. I hope you'll be in touch.

One Comment

  1. Tammy January 1, 2012 at 7:23 am

    This poem was arresting, as though time paused briefly as I read it. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about identity and the differences in the identities we claim for ourselves and those that others would choose for us, and it was as though this poem chose me this morning. Thank you!

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