Why would or wouldn't you want this poem in an Introduction to Poetry Anthology textbook?Outside, the rain, Pinafore of gray water, dresses the town And I stroke the leather belt, As she sits in...
Outside, the rain, Pinafore of gray water, dresses the town
And I stroke the leather belt,
As she sits in the rocking chair,
Holding a crushed paper cup to her lips.
I yell at her, but she keeps rocking;
Back, her eyes open, forward, they close.
Her body, somehow fat, though I feed her only once a day,
Reminds me of my own just after she was born.
It’s been seven years, but I still can’t forget how I felt.
How heavy it feels to look at her.
I lay the belt on a chair
And get her dinner bowl.
I hit the spoon against it, set it down
And watch her crawl to it,
Pausing after each forward thrust of her legs
And when she takes her first bite,
I grab the belt and beat her across the back
Until her tears, beads of salt-filled glass, falling,
Shatter on the floor.
I move off. I let her eat,
While I get my dog’s chain leash from the closet.
I whirl it around my head.
O daughter, so far, you’ve only had a taste of icing,
And you ready now for some cake?
This is my first experience with the poem, "Child Beater," by the poet AI (the pen name of Arizonan, Florence Anthony), but it is a memorable one. It is a beautifully constructed tale of ghastly horror, and it takes several rereadings to fathom the full message and impact. I initially thought it was a poem about a man beating his dog, but surprise--it is, instead, a mother who gleefully whips her own daughter! It is definitely worthy of an anthology entry, since it is well-written, brutally deceptive and deals with a problem taboo to most poetry. The last two lines particularly create a vivid mental image of the out-of-control woman about to follow her hors d'oeuvres with the main course.
I think it depends on the context of the anthology. If it were a general anthology, I would say this would make a bad introduction. It's a very taboo, emotional, and difficult poem to begin with. The following explanation could detour a reader from further investigating the anthology. However, if it were for an anthology with a theme/context such as domestic violence or women's studies, I would say yes. The audience reading it would more than likely already have some knowledge about the subject and this poem would strike an emotional chord, but also interest within the reader, making them want to go further into the text.
This reminds me a lot of a poem that is used here in Britain by Carol Ann Duffy - "We Remember Your Childhood Well" - you could do an excellent compare and contrast with this poem - google it to find a copy of the text online. I do think this is a good poem that can easily be used to teach analysis and appreciation of poetry, but I always like to make sure that if I am teaching a "dark" poem like this that we do something a bit "lighter" in the next class. It depresses me otherwise!