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Today I have the pleasure of welcoming AE Hines to the blog to share a poem from his new collection, Any Dumb Animal, and a little about its inspiration. Please give him a warm welcome.

My Father’s Son

If my father was ever tender, I don’t remember.
By the time I could forge memories, he’d grown
hard, cold like the hood of his Pontiac
on a January morning. Surely he must have changed
my diaper or offered me a bottle when my mother’s milk
ran dry. Held me when I cried.

Biology has blessed us with the strongest recollection
for what to avoid, so I don’t know if he ever lifted
my little body to the sky, or carried me on his shoulders.
Instead I’m left with random sensations — the burn
of the electric fence on my uncle’s farm,
how my father told me to grab hold of the naked wire,
so that I might remember, he said, so that I could learn.

I can still make out my uncle’s orchard, the sun glinting
off the silver leaves, but not the first time I crushed
a grape between my teeth or tasted the juices straight
from my fingers. Perhaps there’s simply too much good
to remember, too little space in our brains to hold
both the good and bad.

When I was sixteen, overtaken by desire, I first
understood what my father thought of me.
He said the saddest son-of-a-bitch he ever knew
lived out in the woods with a daughter who longed
to be a son, and a son who chased every boy in town.

It was the same year he left our family, the year
I discovered in his belongings a picture he had taken
of me when I was four. All cherub smile, the sun ablaze
in my hair — a photo he must have treasured
since he said he’d kill me before he let me have it.

Which is really something when you think about it —
the memory of the boy he had seen through the lens
so much better than the real thing standing
right there before him.

AE Hines

On “My Father’s Son”

Like much of the collection, this poem explores human relationships through the faulty lens of memory and one’s own personal history. “My Father’s Son,” did originate from actual incidents in childhood, just as the narrative describes. But as I explored these memories, I found myself more interested in what wasn’t there, particularly in relation to my own father. Surely, there were moments of tenderness hidden in there, even if obscured by time and the grooves that trauma and conflict etch into our brains. I wanted a true and compassionate rendering, but there were holes. Those gaps became an organizing theme for the piece. Interestingly, my own son is the same age as the speaker at the end of this poem, and I am roughly the same age as the father. I can’t help but wonder what, in thirty or forty years, my son will remember most about his childhood, particularly in relation to me. So many of our memories seem colored by what we want to see, what we wish was there, in a sort of magical thinking that people and circumstances – even in the past – will conform to our demands. The father at the end of this poem seems unable to see his own son, as he is, standing right there. Instead, he prefers the memory (symbolized by a picture) he has created in his mind of who he had hoped his son would be. I only hope I’ve done better than this as a father, myself. Time, as they say, will tell. Or, it won’t. That’s the thing, isn’t it?  This poem is an acknowledgment that none of us has the full story. Human memory is there for our evolutionary survival, not our pleasure. And every story we tell ourselves about our past is, at least partially, a lie.


Thank you so much for being my guest today and sharing your work with my readers. Congratulations on your new release!

For more on Any Dumb Animal, and to follow the blog tour, please click the button below.

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Coming in Fall 2021

Any Dumb Animal (Main Street Rag, 2021), the debut poetry collection by AE Hines, presents a memoir-in-verse as told by a gay man raised in the rural South who comes of age during the AIDS crisis. Flashing back and forth in time, a cast of recurring characters and circumstances are woven into a rich tale of survival and redemption, exploring one man’s life as a queer son, father, and husband, over a span of more than thirty years.

Preorder at Main Street Rag


Early reviews

“This compellingly candid work speaks the language of
courage, of breath-taking transcendence. Finely crafted, it is a
remarkable debut collection. Take note, world: a powerful
lyric poet has emerged. Take note and rejoice!” ~ Paulann
Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita

“I was amazed over and over at the bravery of these poems,
never shying from the difficult moments in life, and all the
while staying true to the clear-eyed, fearless vision of their
author.” ~ James Crews, Editor of How to Love the World:
Poems of Gratitude and Hope

“With a strong gift for storytelling and an eye attuned to
detail, Hines ultimately shows us the beauty and knowledge
made of experience.” ~Richie Hofmann, Author of Second
Empire


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