William Miller plays with the tradition of odes to family members in his poem “Picture of my Father at Ten.” The poem begins with the story of a father who donated the money in his piggy bank to soldiers fighting in Korea and had his picture in the paper. Then the speaker moves to the present, saying,
I have it on my mantel nowThe voice is as clear and loving as it is in the first half of the poem, yet this moment is a turn in the piece. The tension is raised, and a strong longing propels the narrative forward until the end:
not a picture of the selfish
father who left my mother
and me when I was ten;
I keep that old picture,
need always to remind
myself my dad was a child once,
did something kind.
And sometimes I wish we were boys together,In his essay “Honor,” Dan Howell braids together stories of his veteran father’s life, death, and funeral service. Throughout the essay, Howell uses short, sharp sentences to end each section, such as “That was the last time we went to church.” These statements offer a kind of closure to each story, yet also leave the reader wanting more. Another strength of Howell’s writing is how he addresses familiar emotions and brings a new perspective through poetic language:
not father and son,
climbing the same oak tree,
swinging and kicking
hard for the sun.
Both of my smart and talented parents, like many of that generation who left the war to start a family, sacrificed parts of themselves for me and my brother, the other selves they could have been. A cliché for Boomers, that sacrifice. But shrapnel of some odd guilt has stuck in me long enough to leave scars, as if my life had cheated them. The cliché is not simple for me.Finally, Howell expresses clear yearning, which brings the reader as close to his thoughts as possible. When describing the lengthy sermon the unprepared preacher gave at the funeral, Howell says another digression “made me ache to be an extravert, the son who would stand up and say ‘Please stop talking now. You’ve insulted my father enough. Asshole.’ And the gasping when I stood up and spoke would turn to laughter, yells. Applause. Everyone would stand up happier, relieved.”
Laced with subtle anger and slow-rising tensions, Isabella David captures the frustrations of mid-twenties law students in her story “If the Meek Inherit the Earth, They’ll Have Sons-of-Bitches for Lawyers.” The narrator and her boyfriend, Bobby, visit a friend, Greyson, and his girlfriend, Charleen, in Washington, D.C. for a weekend in the summer. However, the characters grow irritated with one another, and the narrator grows hateful toward Charleen, a gossipy, dominating woman. Through sharp language and repetition throughout the story, the narrator reveals her affection for Greyson over Bobby and Charleen’s power over Greyson:
Courtesy of Charleen, we also learned Greyson had a father who banged the neighbor’s wife, had acne, owned far too many face products, underwear with holes, and other tidbits of knowledge that, worst of all, nearly made Greyson weep. I didn’t cringe for him regarding the unfaithful father, the pitiful pimple creams, or the rest of it, but squirm for him because he squirmed so, and squirmed, too, that Charleen should scrape at these sore spots, holding them up, her revolting cache of inside knowledge.This issue of Tampa Review brims with the talent of well-established writers. The pieces are sharp, provoking, and full of techniques readers will desire to emulate in their own writing.