Forrest Hamer (born in 1956) is a poet, psychologist, candidate psychoanalyst, and a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley. He was educated at Yale and Berkeley. He is the author of Call & Response (Alice James, 1995), winner of the Beatrice Hawley Award, and Middle Ear (The Roundhouse Press, 2000), a finalist for the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award. His work has appeared in many journals including the Beloit Poetry Journal, Callaloo, Kenyon Review, and the Ploughshares.
Lesson by Forest Hammer
It was 1963 or 4, summer,
and my father was driving our family
from Ft. Hood to North Carolina in our 56 Buick.
We’d been hearing about Klan attacks, and we knew
Mississippi to be more dangerous than usual.
Dark lay hanging from the trees the way moss did,
and when it moaned light against the windows
that night, my father pulled off the road to sleep.
that usually woke me from rest afraid of monsters
kept my father awake that night, too,
and I lay in the quiet noticing him listen, learning
that he might not be able always to protect us
from everything and the creatures besides;
perhaps not even from the fury suddenly loud
through my body about his trip from Texas
to settle us home before he would go away
to a place no place in the world
he named Viet Nam. A boy needs a father
with him, I kept thinking, fixed against noise
from the dark.