It was a surprise when Joel Bellman and his brother, Jonathan, discovered that his father not only wrote but published poems in his lifetime that they knew nothing about. It is our privilege here to publish two of their fatherâ€™s poems.
When my dad died in 2009, it fell to my brother, Jonathan, and me to sort through the archives and academic detritus he had amassed over a long tenure as a university English professor. As both a doting father and a dedicated teacher, he always championed a life of the mind, but was living disproof of the old clichĂ© that â€śthose who canâ€™t do, teach.â€ť He taught writing, but he also wrote, prolifically: reviews, essays, short stories, and poems for a wide variety of journals, frequently returning to themes of childhood, learning, his literary heroes, and mortality. Hereâ€™s a sample of his poetry (published between 1967-2005).
1. Professor to Student
Teach me to cheat myself of time
and I will steal a slate from
who knows where
and show each ache of truth
that Iâ€™ve sustained.
Grade me when I have raged
about what others cannot help,
that I might earn the boon
of being near a growing mind
that thoroughly itself trained
2. An Exceptional Child
Waves lapping the shore
Like dumb dogs their drink.
Only the little sand crabs
Know where they are going.
There are too many bathers at this beach
She looks blankly.
Her face if milk white,
It is like a piece of puffy cloud:
She may laugh suddenly at any moment.
The other children have a wide range of pleasures
In or out of the water.
Son her mother will have to take her home
Where she will start to cry
Because it is not full of happy umbrellas
And wet people in all sizes.
I will tell no one what we two have in common.