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Peg Cherrin-Myers — Touchstone Award for Individual Poems Winner 2022

Peg Cherrin-Myers is the recipient of a Touchstone Award for Individual Poems for 2022 for the poem:

coming out . . .
my father’s love
with an *

Kingfisher #6, October 2022


Commentary from the Panel:

In this timely haiku, the perspective is that of a teenage or adult child. Line 1 provides the context, ‘coming out ….’ We know we are in a newly established frame of reference. In line 2, ‘ my father’s love’ it appears all is well. But not so fast, says line 3’s ‘with an *’ all is not completely well. Or, is it a half-mumbled, paternal profanity, as in *”%”*# in old-style prose?

As readers, we are not given any specifics, only an asterisk, without the expected explanatory footnote. The ultimate mystery of line 3 made this haiku one I could not step away from. The absence of clever wordplay also kept me coming back. After multiple reads of this haiku, I delved deeper into thoughts such as: Parents I know who tell their LGBTQIA (teen or adult) child, Yes, we accept you as you are, with the following qualification (fill in the blank). Ultimately, I was struck by how deftly the poet handles the qualified acceptance: with an *.

Perhaps this remarkable haiku will shine brightly enough to change future outcomes, and qualified acceptance will become unqualified acceptance. Perhaps not. But I know its vibrant authenticity renders it a haiku I now carry close to my heart. And soon will share again and again.The double use of punctuation in this poem really underlines the struggle of a coming out conversation in a family. The ellipsis immediately connotes the complex personal decision of finally deciding to come out verbally and formally. It takes time and contemplation and the weighing of many factors, especially if there’s a question of acceptance hanging in the air. Each of those dots contains multitudes. The asterisk, when said out loud, almost sounds like a term for putting it all on the line, going out on a limb: “an ass to risk.” Maybe when the father heard this, he still had reservations; maybe when the protagonist came out it became clear that the father’s love only existed, heartbreakingly, with a clause of only heterosexuality being acceptable. The asterisk contains multitudes of emotion and judgement, layered on top of the already complicated history contained in the ellipsis.


The double use of punctuation in this poem really underlines the struggle of a coming out conversation in a family. The ellipsis immediately connotes the complex personal decision of finally deciding to come out verbally and formally. It takes time and contemplation and the weighing of many factors, especially if there’s a question of acceptance hanging in the air. Each of those dots contains multitudes. The asterisk, when said out loud, almost sounds like a term for putting it all on the line, going out on a limb: “an ass to risk.” Maybe when the father heard this, he still had reservations; maybe when the protagonist came out it became clear that the father’s love only existed, heartbreakingly, with a clause of only heterosexuality being acceptable. The asterisk contains multitudes of emotion and judgement, layered on top of the already complicated history contained in the ellipsis.


“Coming out,” revealing one’s gender orientation, is a difficult and emotional act. There is much soul-searching and self-doubting that can be a part of the act and one must find the courage to announce the decision one has reached. This haiku faces that final step and its outcome.

The first two lines suggest that the poet is met with a parent’s love. The third line, with its superb use of *, undermines what seemed to be a positive outcome for the poet. The * is a sign, a mere symbol, that shows a reservation on the part of the father. The use of an asterisk is the height of disappointment for the child; the wholehearted love they felt they might receive is lost. Even trying to pronounce * is disappointing since the sound simply trails off into x sound.

I’m left with the impression that the child, now hurt, must move forward past this troubling outcome and, in effect, become a parent to the father. The poet has made their choice and must live with it whatever the father does. A fine poem with much emotion to explore.


Touchstone winners receive a crystal award to commemorate their selection.  See the complete list of winners of both Individual Poem Awards and Distinguished Books Awards in the Touchstone Archives.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. coming out . . .
    my father’s love
    with an * – Peg Cherrin-Myers

    The asterisk points to a missing footnote that , logically, would perhaps go into more detail on the subject of this particular father’s love. If this was a legal document, the asterisk might refer the reader to conditions related to ‘love’. Perhaps the idea is to point to a generalized “conditional love” from the father and Peg (or the “I of the poem” ) had hoped for unconditional love?

  2. I love this poem with my whole heart. That it is one of the Touchstone awarded poems of 2022 gives me hope and comfort. This poetic form contains multitudes. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, it feels amazing to feel this inclusive embrace.

  3. One of those poems that becomes stronger with each extra re-reading.

    coming out . . .
    my father’s love
    with an *

    Peg Cherrin-Myers
    — Kingfisher #6, October 2022 ed. Tanya McDonald
    https://kingfisherjournal.com/about/

    .

    Even without that particularly strong opening line, just those last two lines say so much and catch so much on either conditional or unconditional love suffered, endured, or embraced or survived from a parent or both parents:

    my father’s love
    with an *

    .
    Whether an opening line is ‘coming out…’ and if ever there was a strong case for an ellipsis (the omission of more information and consequences), or any other opening line, the last two lines will certainly make some readers nod in agreement, about sacrifices and compromises made by sons and daughters around the world.

    I cannot imagine how difficult even today, even in the ‘West’ it must be, to declare “I’m different” and not part of the perceived one-track idea of children and their place in society, where pre-teen, teenage, or post-teen.

    .
    I’ve seen posts and articles on punctuation in haiku, past and present, and the use of the ellipsis and the asterisk in this award-winning haiku deserves to be inserted into any new, or revised/revisited piece on punctuation.

    kind regards,
    Alan
    founder, Call of the Page

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