Breakdown: A Father’s Journey


In stock

poems by

Richard Krawiec

Poetry chapbook, 40 pages, $7 cover price

ISBN: 978-1-59948-114-2

Released: 2008

Richard Krawiec’s first novel, Time Sharing, was published by Viking Penguin and received major reviews from luminaries such as Richard Eder (L.A. Times), Michiko Kakutani (N.Y.Times ), and Jonathon Yardley (Washington Post). It made Publisher’s Weekly Recommended List and the Village Voice Real Life Rock Top Ten List and the Village Voice Real Life Rock Top Ten.

His second novel, Faith In What? was published by Avisson Press, as was his first collection of short stories, And Fools of God.

He has edited 2 anthologies that featured the work of North Carolina writers such as Allan Gurganus, Reynolds Price, Lee Smith, Fred Chappell, Elizabeth Spencer and others. He also edited Taboo Haiku, which featured writers from Asia, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the US.

In addition he’s published two sports biographies for children, one on Olympic skater Sarah Hughes, and the other on basketball player Yao Ming. The latter book was cited as one of the 40 Best Young Adult Books of 2004 by the Pennsylvania Librarians Association.

His poems, stories, plays, essays, and feature articles appear in literary and commercial magazines around the world.

He has received Creative Writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council (twice), and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Currently he teaches Beginning and Intermediate Fiction Writing online for UNC-Chapel Hill.
As Director of the non-profit organization VOICES, he has taught writing workshops to people in homeless shelters, literacy classes, housing projects, women’s centers, and prisons.

Begin, if you dare, with this moment “when your wife confronts incest /when she attempts to free/ her grief allow/ the tears to curve/ a flowing sickle/ around her trembling mouth…” and you will enter the world of Breakdown: A Father’s Journey, poems that complete the rest of the sentence, the cage of it, the fleeting hope, the nightmare hours of each day, rendered in such sensuous detail that they could be love poems. Richard Krawiec’s courageous, unblinking art has created a collection that is both terrifying and beautiful. “I recycle today’s images/into language I hope/ will help me endure…” he explains. The poems that he has wrought from this struggle are harrowing, yet tender. They are, finally, nothing less than love poems.

Kathryn Stripling Byer


The Insistence on Living

today the change is apparent
a shift so subtle I question
my memory of the previous
image – popcorn clusters
of small white petals on the plum
tree now they are burnished
to soft thick lavender in two days
the flowers will be gone replaced
by darker leaves that will absorb
the rain and hang in ordered rows
like butchered meat draped on hooks
this too will pass

a sparrow with mottled feathers
that speak of what was lost in the Fall
tastes these purple leaves as if seeking
renewal it hops the length of one branch
plucks each petal from its pod spits it
to the ground when the branch is stripped
clean it cocks its head to examine
the fullness of the tree then flies off

there is too much Spring to deny

it is 6am no longer a time late
with insomnia simply morning
too early admittedly but dawn
the sky a formation of round wisp-edged
clouds rouged underneath with orange light
I go out to the day my children in my arms

inside the house my wife dressed in pajamas
covered with doll babies hides beneath her blanket
with the latest barrage of letters from her family
she worries how she can fulfill their needs rescue
them from the way they reveal themselves

she’s not the enemy Judy has told me but
I don’t have to be a slave to her pathology

the last dry chips of dead leaves
nobly yield to my rake I cast
manure phosphate fish emulsion upon
the measured plot move the roaring tiller
over the soil the clay seems insufficient
for nourishment and drainage still
I turn the soil under
blades struggle like prayer
to penetrate the dense earth
I keep insisting

The older boy struggles to drag a rake closer
I fear he might impale himself his brother
I say nothing we all must risk
he has a right to pull the soil into hills
finger-poke seeds in ragged rows draw
red magic marker beasts on old T-shirts
scarecrows too laughable to banish
blackbirds his own nightmares

The younger fills a yellow plastic watering can
spills it out on the grass the stairs his own
shoes it’s not where he pours the water
that matters so what
if we are only going through the motions
if all our efforts are destined to fail
we are insisting on living
we are insisting
we are


like the aftermath of violent tides
piled leaves debris the street
your parents called again
again I told them
what do they wish
to hear from me

that your older brother
armed with a dictionary
ordered you to comply
with his words of assault

younger brother pinned
your arms as he arched and sliced
into your body

father got you
drunk in a hotel room in Mexico

mother bruised
you to silence with egg beaters
hair brushes wooden spoons

now they enforce silence
with flowers cards claims of love
the repeated emphasis
on the suffering you cause
by curling on a bed
in the Psychiatric Ward
of the State Hospital

safely hidden
inside a code
of Oz tornadoes
Bizzaro cartoons
messages from the Virgin
her angels

in this world you are always
three years old and killing
your children
watching yourself
tossed raggedly
down the staircase
you believe in your fault
you can never be
sorry enough

you construct a grid
of global conspiracy
to make your violators
heroes who saved you
by leaving clues
to what they’d done

the leaves are thick
I tell your mother
as each one breaks down
the piles seem larger more

we are she tells me
having a nice autumn

The True Meaning

Life takes its true meaning in proportion to one’s daily battles against suffering
Mark Mathabane

as it begins to open
the orange eye of the sun narrows
to a slit in the bruised folds
of the sky viscous drops of rain
thud on my windshield wipers squeak
teeth grind the red blink of a radio
tower promises to transcend distance

my friends might be those beeps
their voices mumbled notes
of commiseration hang in there
don’t give up
they say
then hang up leaving me alone
with a thirty-five-year-old illusion
held together by lithium navane
welbutrin my wife knowledge
is true and useless

I circle the city until the showers
cease gray haze is broken
by hinted forms of buildings
that turn to follow their green-lit floors
observant sinister
yellow road reflectors
leap beyond my tires
a loud crack the sky unloads
ahead the road forks
to the right the flat desert
of a rooftop vents steam
to the left the magma glow
of streetlights pour down
to fill an empty lot

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