Earlier this year, I went to my childhood home to clean out my old closet in preparation for my parents' big move. For hours I sorted through dozens of American Girl books, an abundance of craft supplies, and all sorts of Winnie the Pooh realia.
And then I found it.
The spiral notebook with a hot pink cover embellished with Lisa Frank stickers. My 6-year old heart had prized that notebook. And as I read through my childish scribbles, I remembered afresh the thrill I'd felt upon receiving the notebook — a notebook that wasn't for school, and was all mine. I couldn't wait to fill its pages.
And so I wrote. I wrote stories about bunnies and rainbows, and I wrote poetry about the things I held dearest.
In fact, I wrote a surprising amount of poetry.
It turns out, my little kid self was an unabashed, prolific poet.
Take, for instance, exhibit A:
Marc my brother is a cute little boy
I like to play with him just like a toy
He has brown hair, and he is so sweet
And he really, really likes to eat.
Some things never change. Marc is still the cutest, sweetest little brother. And he still has brown hair and likes to eat.
But as Marc grew cuter and more hungry, I grew more self-aware. And at some point — probably the same time I realized my version of "Hakuna Matata" did NOT sound like Whitney Houston — I realized there were much better poets than I. And so I stopped writing poetry, and stuck with literary analysis, instead.
But you know, the older I grow, the more I long to be the bold, unfettered poet I was as a kid. So I've tried, many times, to write a poem. I've mustered my courage, gathered my climbing gear, and prepared to scale Mount Write-a-Poem. But each time I stare at that looming mountain I feel so inadequate, and so I turn and walk away.
But you guys. I finally did it. I scaled the mountain. I wrote a poem. And I'm tempted to hide it away so that no one but me ever reads it, but I know my 6-year old self would share it. Because poems are meant to be shared. And it's the sharing that develops brand spankin' new poets into mature poets. Six-year olds are so much wiser than 28-year olds, aren't they? And so, I give you my very first post-childhood poem:
When I met you, I wondered why you lived in that
Your nearest friend, the Darkness.
But even he couldn’t get past
Your dusty skin.
So he settled, instead, in the cracks between
The toes you wiggled
In your spacious casket,
And he and the Warmth sang you lullabies
To the rhythm of your heartbeat.
I wonder how many nights you listened
To your heart ticking,
Like a rusty clock, and
At an inky, starless lid
From the pain that
In the veins of the living.
And I wonder if you meant it
When you told me in muffled tones
Through thick cedar walls
That you’re happy
That the Sun finger-paints
Across clean morning skies,
And that you don’t need to
Feel the cold juice
Of a tangerine
Dribbling down your chin,
Because hearing about it
And I wonder how you know the difference
Between the sun
And a tangerine.
I wonder if you noticed,
That day I pushed open your lid,
How the light ran ahead of my hands
And licked your face happily,
Pulling your mouth into a smile.
Because I think the expansive canopy of blue
Threatened to fall
And made you dizzy.
And I think your sharp intake of air
Like needles pricking,
For veins, searching for
Some sign of life.
And I think the sun pierced your
Making your pupils
And I think the warmth of my hand
On your shoulder
Made your heart beat
In a rhythm
I think this is why
You fell back
And closed the lid,
And laid your head
On your velvet pillow.
I haven’t seen you since.
And I often wonder if you’ll be able to forget
the color of light.
© by scj