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Three Poems
After I got back to Tucson yesterday, I wanted to spend the day sleeping. But because Skylar's mother had to work until very late, I had childcare responsibilities. Only minutes after I'd picked Skylar up, however, it became apparent to me that I would benefit more from her company than I would from immediate slumber. She's always a great kid, of course, but has been on a real roll of late. Her mind is working so fast and she has so many interesting topics to discuss. It's a delight to be with her, even when ostensibly doing nothing.

We swam at the JCC and got something to eat before heading home. By that time, I thought my sleep-deprivation and lingering alimentary unease had finally gotten the better of me. When we came home, though, Skylar wanted to talk poetry. First she read all the poems printed in her latest issue of Highlights and discussed their merits, as well as broader questions of rhyme and rhythm that her current unit in school have triggered. Then she read aloud a poem from Michael Davidson's Arcades, which I'd brought back from my trip. And then she wanted to write some poetry of her own.

She asked me for prompts to get her thoughts flowing. I would throw out a singe word, like "lost" and she would then produce a poem from the mental associations it set in motion. Here are three of the ones she came up with, each titled with the prompt I'd given her:
San Francisco

A crumpled mailbox stands
on a sunny Oakland street,
while the smoggy windows of a subway
block out views of the station,
ever in a hurry,
away from spray-painted fences
ripped by yowling Rotweilers,
away to the arches of the sunset,
away to all the alley cats slinking,
and skyscrapers tearing blue cotton,
away from the crumpled mailbox
on a sunny Oakland street.


The swift girls and boys glide,
as an assortment of varied clichés,
while a lone drop of rain plops
in an ocean far away,
away from the whispering shore.
The ocean water from far away
slinks through a tap
at a department store,
where pencils and erasers are sorted
by their own pleasures,
a fraction of apples and oranges,
never knowing what lies
on the other side.

New York

Behind a pane of glass
the gray street blows,
Garbage flutters,
as brawny men haul the cans in
their trucks,
while caution tape flairs
down rough stairs
littered with popcorn,
leading on,
cars speeding along damp
waving at a copper lady.
Even after Skylar went to bed, I had a terrible time falling into restful sleep. But the memory of the fun I'd had with her sustained me, as it is ding right now.

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6 comments or Leave a comment
celebrian_3 From: celebrian_3 Date: February 25th, 2010 04:43 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
She's writing poetry like this at eleven? She never ceases to amaze me.

There's some terrific lines in there. I really like: " . . . where pencils and erasers are sorted / by their own pleasures / a fraction of apples and oranges." Such a subtle way of pointing out the smallness and sameness of which cliques are made. Astonishing.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 25th, 2010 08:05 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Yes, I was pretty impressed, even though I'm with her all the time. She's in one of those phases, not just confined to infancy, when great strides are made in a short period of time. And that line about the pleasures was my favorite, too. That whole poem is structured around some very complicated metaphors. I told her she'd need to revise it, make it less abstract, if she wanted it to make sense to her teachers. Revision is a good habit to learn. But, damn, when a ten-minute draft comes out that good!
elizabeg From: elizabeg Date: February 26th, 2010 03:15 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Also: I think that was my favorite line too. But now I can't remember because I am floored by the wow.

Also: yes, revision is good to learn. But still please tell her for me that although you are probably correct about her teachers and also (perhaps sadly) about a lot of the world, there is much to be said for so-called abstraction, in poetry as in the visual arts.

10 minutes?! Wow. Wow wow wow.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: March 1st, 2010 10:08 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I have told her. We already have had several conversations about her current homeroom teacher's failure to appreciate the deconstruction of the metonymy-metaphor distinction that Skylar came up with in October. It's funny. She has won a poetry award at school almost every year. But I think she may now be approaching the point at which her aptitude is a liability in such contests. I hope not. Still, experience suggests that it's likely.

(Sorry for the delay in replying; I have been overwhelmed with catching-up since I got back to Tucson.)
barca_k From: barca_k Date: February 26th, 2010 08:53 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I used to fancy myself a poet - still take a stab at it now & again... but that girl has an amazing command of language.

I have to go with the crowd on this one, too - that sequence with the pencils &c. conjures up a bunch of different images/ideas in my head all at once. It's like a tangle of threads, with each thread representing an idea or emotion.

That's quite a kid you've got there.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: March 1st, 2010 10:09 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Thanks! She's pretty awesome, I think.

I have tried to untangle that tangle, but it's tricky. The water part is very complicated. It made sense to me when she explained what she meant, but I can't articulate it clearly in my own words.

(Sorry for the delay in replying; I have been overwhelmed with catching-up since I got back to Tucson.)
6 comments or Leave a comment