Dad would turn up the stereo

Here is a sad little poem written by a woman looking back at a lonely childhood moment, perhaps indicative of a lonely childhood in total. But feelings are implied, not explicit, as the poem enumerates the external clues as to the situation and the protagonists struggle with it. And there is a poignant contrast between the optimistic implications of the title, “Midsummer” and the tone of disappointment and disillusion of the moment described in the poem

Midsummer
Claire Collett

Dad would turn up the stereo
sit on the back steps
to smoke and drink gin.
He’d play
Jack Teagarden and Lady Day-
talking to himself
as if my mother was still
there to disagree.
Unnoticed, I’d balance
on a thin window ledge,
watch the one constant
light on Fairwood common.
I’d listen to my father
argue himself silent
then pour another drink,
Billie’s voice rising
cool, bitter as magnolia,
thick in the gaining dark.

So this is the experience of a child of a broken marriage, or possibly a child who’s mother has died. In any event, the only parent present is the father, drinking too much, escaping into music and talking to himself, probably wallowing in life’s dead-ends and failures. The music on the stereo is jazz, with the songs of Billie Holiday linking the father’s experience with another life of promise brought down by drugs and alcohol.

Seems like the odds are stacked against the young girl whose point of view is expressed in the poem, albeit without judgement or self-pity. She is unnoticed, and perhaps wants to remain so.

The Poetry Dude

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