This poem initially started out to be the first poem for Simone, my youngest, but when the deeper poem started in on me, I realized it was about both daughters. My middle child, Olivia is preparing to explore what college she wants to attend. Like most parents, I am a nag, and we had a bit of a tiff regarding her college essay. The dispute ended with Olivia stating, “I will make my own decision.” Like most parents, I was upset at her insolence but I stopped the bickering. And as I thought about it, who was the insolent one?

I often think of the false masculinities and how I might unintentionally subject my daughters to notions of superiority and power. So the poem is a reminder to me, that even in the quiet moments we bring histories, narratives, lies, tales, music (yes, sweet music) to our children. For better or for worse, all of this is what we impart as they grow into adults on their own journey. When Olivia and I argued it was me overly asserting my will on her future and not trusting the lessons that she has ingested since birth.

I have entered what I am calling “re-fathering,” that is, even after a new marriage and a third child after a sixteen-year hiatus, I still need to practice listening and tenderness. The poem, like the slang term, finds me the parent “sleeping” on these practices. But I am trying, and Olivia’s assertiveness makes me proud to know she is becoming…

This Lullaby Becomes the Grace on My Daughter’s Forehead

              & when it warbles 
& then gets down

              & then this night-night,
this bass-note joins the

             others: strings & brass
hollowing her   Sax solo

             in unison with chimes,
head nods, snap-backs

             & damn good daddy vibes
& it closes my eyes, too & lulls

             to when a writer tells me
his mama spent her entire life

             trying to kill her own daddy
Her heart, not a harp

             but lost, taken from jump
by a man granted to guide

             & love every step she
regarded & then, there came

             the time when her journey,
her damned journey

            warbled, too & moved with
& without applause

            to cleave the sin
of fatherhood so no host

           of men would tell her body
to leave or when to go

           astray or when to let her
own crescendos

           & whirlwinds salute
the world Her own

          melody & ligatures
bound to life

F. Douglas Brown is the author of two poetry collections, ICON (Writ Large Press, 2018), and Zero to Three (University of Georgia, 2014), winner of the 2013 Cave Canem Poetry Prize selected by US Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith. He also co-authored with poet Geffrey DavisBegotten (URB Books, 2016),a chapbook of poetry as part of the Floodgate Poetry Series. Brown, an educator for over 20 years, currently teaches English and African American Poetry at Loyola High School of Los Angeles, an all-boys Jesuit school. He is both a Cave Canem and Kundiman fellow, and was selected by Poets & Writers as one of their ten notable Debut Poets of 2014. His poems have appeared in the Academy of American Poets, The PBS News HourThe Virginia Quarterly (VQR), Bat City Review, The Chicago Quarterly Review (CQR), The Southern Humanities Review, The Sugar House ReviewCura Magazine, and Muzzle Magazine. He is co-founder and curator of un::fade::able – The Requiem for Sandra Bland, a quarterly reading series examining restorative justice through poetry as a means to address racism.

When he is not teaching, writing or with his children (Isaiah, Olivia, and Simone), he is busy DJing in the greater Los Angeles area.