Kevin Shyne, “How Hard We Try”

Once a freelance writer, later a corporate speechwriter, and at last a poet, Kevin Shyne has been published in Poetry Breakfast, The Lyric, The Road Not Taken, and Blue Heron Review. Kevin lives in a small town in the corn-and-soybean heart of Illinois, where, along with other arts-minded volunteers, he organized the 2018 Festival of the Written Word, a creative writing event for students from the seven high schools in Bureau Country.

orange line

How Hard We Try

Say it was her command.
My daughter, age eleven,
stared me down
until I said the words,
I love myself.
But obedience was not enough.
She drilled me with her eye.
Now with feeling, she persisted
as if to say
If you can’t why should I?

Softening her stare,
she granted me a night’s reprieve
attentive as I tucked her in
kissed her cheek,
and left the door an inch ajar.
In the hall I tried again.
I love myself
spoken in a voice I barely recognized.
Much easier to say and mean
I love you to a child like this
but turn the words back on ourselves
we choke on undeservingness.

Tomorrow night I’ll try again
as much for her sake as for mine.
One day, when I am but a face
watching from a picture frame
hanging on a daughter’s wall
she’ll catch me eyeing
her surrender and wonder
what happened to her spine.
Then she will remember,
besieged by her own children’s eyes
how easily the words once came
to her and how hard a parent tries.





One thought on “Kevin Shyne, “How Hard We Try”

  1. This was a beautiful poem. The word choice was perfect; I could clearly imagine the little girl’s demands and the mother’s attempt to comply. The poignant ending made me catch my breath with its truth. Life comes full circle. Thank you for this lovely poem.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s