Category Archives: Poetry

To My Daughter, On the Terrible Twos

As it may probably be ascertained by the title of this post, my daughter, Clara, has entered the joyous phase known to many as “the terrible twos.”

It isn’t fun.

This week in particular has been rough. Nothing we say or do makes her happy. If she doesn’t get what she wants, there is no redemption or consolation in anything else Kara and I might offer. It has been very frustrating.

At the end of the day, though, I still love her. At the end of the day, she still makes me fiercely, gloriously proud.

She is the flesh of my flesh, the spirit of my spirit, the first fruit of my marriage. What can she do that would change that?

Then, I am brought back to the idea that everything we experience in life is a microcosm of our Father’s love for us. Knowing how I feel about my daughter at the end of her worst days reassures me that, even at my lowest point, I was still fearfully and wonderfully made by my Father. At the worst of times, He still loves me dearly… so, so dearly.

I wrote this poem about that.

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To My Daughter, On the Terrible Twos

You entered the world,
your cry was luminous,
dissolving the murk of my days.

Your shining eyes,
the lantern of your laughter,
came to guide me in dusks.

When you learned to walk,
your bright hair became a candle
flickering around the halls of our home.

You continue to grow,
the radiance of your will is bright;
even now, in a shimmering tantrum,
your fists and feet send sparks as they strike the ground,
scattering light into every corner of the room.

Michael Hylton, St. Louis, 2011

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The Break, the Stone, and the Paper

If you didn’t notice, I took a vacation last week.

I didn’t go anywhere, but I did take a break from the blog. It has been a nutty couple of weeks recently, and I honestly reached a point where I needed to put something on pause. I thought that a respite from the site would be the most appropriate thing.

I learned a couple things from this. The first is, even though I committed personally to posting twice a week every week, no one is holding a gun to my head. Just like anything else, it’s okay to take a break from time to time; it can even be beneficial. I also learned that I truly care about this blog, as not a day went by that I didn’t think about it, want to check on it, want to write something and put it up.

Anyway, I am now back to regularly-scheduled programming. I feel like I am getting caught up again, and I don’t feel as if I would have to take time away from my family in order to write and post things here.

I have a new poem I would like to share with you. I wrote it while I was “away.”

Enjoy, and please share with your family and friends.

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The Stone and the Paper

Cradled in the hum of a warm afternoon,
sunlight bounds silently off the walls;
my son and I rest heavily on the couch.

He breathes deeply and stirs, burying his face in my chest;
licking his lips twice, he settles, grows still again.

He is a small stone and I am a sheet of paper
being held in place
in an airy, open-windowed room.

Michael Hylton, St. Louis, 2011


Mother Land: For Jonathan

Today I would like to share a poem that I wrote for a friend. He’s actually my best friend. I met him during my freshman year of college. We lived together for three years, and we have been friends for nearly a decade. He and I grew up together; we became friends during the time in which we began to put childish things behind us.

Shortly he will be moving back home to Texas. This is a blessing, because he will soon be joined by the woman who is to be his wife. Even though this is a good thing, I am sad because it is a milestone; it is one of those things that represents another thing that is much more significant. It means letting go. It means continuing to grow up, which is something I had wished was over.

It also means there will be joy. Joy for my friend who will soon, as a poet once wrote, “taste the stronger side of love.” Joy for the children that will come. Joy for the fortification of a family. Joy for the first blessing, and all that will come hereafter.

Jonathan, even though I am sad that your are moving so far away, I cannot tell you how proud of you I am; it would be impossible to write here. I cannot tell you how happy I am for you, for the coming of new things. I pray that your home will be filled with overwhelming, fierce Joy. I love you and your fiance. You have been like a brother to me; you have been a brother to me.

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Mother Land

For Jonathan

When you return to the place that nursed your youth,
the land that will cradle your children
in the palm of her hand,

do not forget where we were taken in and
adopted as brothers.

Do not forget the front porch in Missouri,
remember every single cigarette and every drop of whiskey;
recall the words we shared in her house.

Do not forget her that nourished us until,
one day, we woke as men.

Michael Hylton, 2011, St. Louis, Missouri


An Early Memory

Today’s poem is concerning a memory from a long time ago. I think it might even be my earliest clear memory. I don’t remember how old I was, only that I couldn’t have been older than four or five.

Enjoy, and feel free to comment.

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An Early Memory

I do not recall if it was in Memphis or Gillette, but
I remember the house,
the reddish-colored carpet in the living room and
the uneven stone-built fireplace,
the picture window,
the view of the lawn.

I remember watching Dad
chase a pair of rabbits in circles around the car port,
an Easter gift for my sister and me,
how they repeatedly dove and hid beneath the car
just avoiding capture.

It was the house where my sister and I,
out of boredom and lack of supervision,
built a tower of tables in her room, and
later that afternoon she received stitches on the bridge of her nose
just between her eyes.

The thing I remember most clearly, though, is
a bitter winter night when my blood sugar was running particularly high;
I couldn’t sleep because it made me ill.

I rested in your lap, on the floor in front of the fireplace,
the darkness held at bay beyond the panes of the picture window
because of a fire I do not remember you building.

But I do remember the heat from
the flame, your arms, and the song you sang to me;
I laid back, watching the fire, cherishing time alone with you.

Now, when I am kept from sleep by the anxieties of parenthood,
I hear your lullaby drift from within the darkest part of me;

my eyes are still stung by
the warmth from the hearth of your embrace.

Michael Hylton, St. Louis, 2011


An Open Letter to a Girl Still Waiting on Her Father

This was difficult to write, because it concerns one of the worst things about being a teacher. I wrote it as an admission of guilt and as a way of working it out so that, hopefully, I will know better what to do.

I have a good friend who once told me that when writing poetry, focus on words, not meaning; put the words on paper and meaning will come. I thought about this, and realized it was great advice. When I am going through something and still trying to make sense of it, I often times make sense of it as I talk it out with someone. Lately, I have found that this is true for writing as well. I can have merely an image or some unexpected phrase float into my mind, and when I don’t worry about what it means or where I am going with it, and let it take shape as I write, typically I discover gems I didn’t know were waiting to be uncovered.

So, here it is. Feel free to comment below, and please enjoy.

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An Open Letter to the Girl Still Waiting on Her Father

As I walked out of the building today,
talking with a colleague of mine
and shrinking in the furnace of afternoon

I walked past you,
briefly breaking out of my conversation long enough to tell you,
“Goodbye, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Your face and your eyes were red (I saw, even though you hid your face),
and at first I told myself it was just the heat;
after all, waiting outside so long on a day like this will do that.

I knew, of course, there was more than this,
and realized it was me who should turn around,
to ask if you were okay,

especially after this morning, what you wrote during class
about spending the weekend at your father’s girlfriend’s house
where he (not you) would probably be moving soon,

and about how he had been working nights lately,
which is why you preferred to stay with your mom and her boyfriend,
even though she takes you to your father’s girlfriend’s,

but I continued on toward my car, checking my phone,
stepping hastily onto the sun-soaked asphalt
and convincing myself there was nothing I could do.

I suppose you got the best of me when I started the engine
and the air-conditioning roared to life;
I thought about how I had nowhere in particular to be
and there was nowhere in particular for you.

I pulled the car up to the bench by the front doors of the school
where you waited, still crying and giving in to helplessness
as the “sun” continued to color your face.

I finally asked if there was anything you needed
or if someone was coming for you.

You gave an uncertain reply,
which told more than you meant,
Even while maintaining better composure than any other freshman girl.

I told you to use my phone and check on your ride,
And stood back as you dialed, waited, got the machine;
I heard you get upset and plead with no one.

I wanted to comfort you,
so I pointed out the other people still hanging around, willingly, after-hours,
informed you that the office was probably still open, if you needed to call again.

I then drove away convincing myself it was all I could do
and that late was better than never.

Michael Hylton, 2011 St. Louis, Missouri


Welcome, Atticus

As many of you may already know, I have recently welcomed my son into the world.

His name is Atticus Michael Hylton.  He was born on Thursday morning, and everything went very, very well.  My wife is already almost fully recovered, and my daughter is fascinated with her new little brother. He is calm and easy to please; most of the time he is content to let us hold him while he snuggles up and watches us.

When my daughter, Clara, was born, I did not think I had the capacity to love anything the way I loved her from the very first moment she took breath into her lungs.  As my son was growing in the womb, I worried that I had reached the limitations of my ability to love.  It is a good thing that God’s compassion, wisdom, and grace is eternal and infinite, and that he will frequently give to us a measure of His love so that we may share it with others. As soon as my son opened his eyes, I loved him dearly; I loved him fiercely.

The greatest thing about having children is that it can give one a small glimpse through the eyes of God.  We can learn, in part, what it is to create.  It can be learned, in part, what it means to truly love.  We can come to understand what it means to desire and yearn for someone else, a creature who is flesh of our own flesh and spirit of our own spirit. We know that we would go to whatever ends are required to cover our children with our love.

In honor of my son’s birthday, I would like to share with you a song and two poems.  Please enjoy.

To the Future

He, the unborn, shall bring
From blood and brain
Songs that a child can sing
And common men;

Songs that the heart can share
And understand;
Simple as berries are
Within the hand:

Such a sure simpleness
As strength may have;
Sunlight upon the grass:
The curve of the wave.

William Soutar

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Words for My Daughter

Come, the cap of birth is dry,
my labouring is done, your cry
has split the world’s roof.

Be comforted, the womb
returns to wrap around you.

Sweet darkness, velvet-blood
from which you came, as night
will cup you again, again

move you outward into light;
a brilliance to be danced in

is life. Your staggering steps
will grow to trust this earth;
it meets both sure and unsure feet.

That shifting pain will shape
the edges that define you.

Know the body that confines
is a new kind of freedom
to find the fullness of you.

Move through yourself. See,
the future is with child

and needs your labouring.
Be done with pasts, walk away.
I’ll watch. I’ll guard your back,

blinded by my own time. Go forward
from the shadows mothers cast.

As old women shrink, rich fruit
seeds into the garden.
I have been. Now you. So live,

we have both shed our tears
for miracles, for coming new.

In birth-sleep heavy at my breast,
love child, first comes the dream
and then the making true.

Janet Paisley


What I Love About Morning

It was a busy and frustrating weekend.  I was able to see many of my students graduate on Saturday night, and attending graduation is always one of my favorite traditions of the school year.  It is one of the things about my job that I truly, truly enjoy.

My sister-in-law and her fiance surprised us with a visit this weekend, too.  It was totally unexpected and exciting to see them Saturday morning.  We spent all day with the two of them, as well as my mother and father-in-law, starting with breakfast, then going on to the park, and finishing up with dinner and relaxing in the evening.  It was a very pleasant, lovely day.

I said the weekend was frustrating because my wife is due to go into labor with our son at any time now. This is the first time we have been able to wait for labor to come on spontaneously. With our daughter, Clara, there were some unusual circumstances, and my wife had to receive an emergency induction a week before her due date.  We are presently about one week from my son’s due date, but my wife’s doctor told her that he almost certainly expected our son to appear this weekend.  As of seven o’ clock on Sunday morning, she has barely had any contractions. I realize that there is a large margin of error that comes along with those sorts of predictions.  It is still pretty frustrating, though, as we are eagerly awaiting meeting our boy. Beside that, Kara is extremely uncomfortable and hasn’t slept well for the past several nights. I have recently learned quite a bit about patience and trusting in God’s timing to be wiser than my own, so we will wait.  I just can’t wait to have an infant in the house again, though. Sigh.

I got up early so that I could get some time to write.  I love being the first one out of bed in the morning, especially just after the sun is up high enough to light the apartment.  That is where today’s poem came from.  Please enjoy, and feel free to comment.

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What I Love About Morning

There are many things I enjoy about being up early in the day,
awake just after sunrise,when I am the first one out of bed:
the grey-blue swelling light that comes through the windows,
bringing with it the wet scent of grass,
the liturgies of waking birds
and the cool splash of a breeze
not yet warmed by running all day beneath the sky.

The silence in my apartment is like the void before creation,
when God hovered above the waters,
sleeves rolled up,
ready to begin the steady work of lighting suns,
filling oceans, and setting planets to spin,

and I sit in my chair,
rotating in place upon the earth,
hovering over my coffee and spilling it upon the table
while I type this poem about hovering and lighting
and spinning, spilling and writing

just after dawn on a Sunday morning,
all the frenetic motions that hold within themselves
promises of new things.

Michael Hylton, St. Louis, 2011