This week I’ve been looking to nature and experimenting with haiku. I also picked up Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka, perfectly illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. Talk about two great tastes that taste great together! Words and images create a lively look at a year of being a boy.
Although I enjoy haiku, I often think they feel too detached from the natural world. All observation, not enough heart. Raczka’s work is quite the opposite. Completely engaging, colloquial, even conversational, I felt like I was re-living my own boyhood memories. He made me reconsider what it is to write authentically from the point-of-view of a child. And, since this is Poetry Friday, I’ve taken a crack at a few Guyku of my own.
I had the good fortune to live in the perfect kid-friendly neighborhood between the ages of 4 and 7. Among other things, we had the Pollywog Pond at the end of the street. Frogs in the summer, skating in the winter. General year-round tomfoolery any time.
I’m not claiming these are on par with Mr. Raczka, but I enjoyed writing them. They brought back some fun memories. We were afraid of that snapping turtle for months! And I didn’t even mention the snake that tried to bite me, fishing for Kivers, the haunted barn or the train tracks. Hmm, wonder if they’d consider a Guyku anthology?
Pollywog Pond Haiku
by Jim Hill
Summer days prowling
around the pollywog pond
for frogs and turtles.
Barehanding bull frogs.
“Mine can jump farther than yours.”
We bet popsicles.
The snapping turtle
came right out of the water.
Scared the pants off me.
to launch a million fluffy,
Skipping stones across
the pond to see who can reach
the other side first.
I have a slight obsession with flying. When I read through my journal and thumb through my sketchbook the theme that soars (sorry…) out is flight. Over and over my poems and sketches revolve around flying, hovering, gliding. I wonder what that says? Am I looking to escape? To get above it all for a better perspective? Do I just want to see all of you as bugs? I’ll leave that for my therapist.
For this week’s Poetry Friday I’m letting two flight themed poems take wing. Rest assured, there will likely be many more.
by Jim Hill
I think I smell a bumble bee.
I’m sure I hear a flower.
The color red tastes so sweet.
Is this my super-power?
I thought I’d be invisible,
Or maybe super-strong,
I thought I’d fight the evil folk,
And right the very wrong.
Now with senses so mixed up,
I can’t tell buzz from brown,
If I fly up, up away
I might come crashing down.
Seeing songs is cool, I guess,
And rainbows are so soft,
but deep inside my heart of hearts
I wish to stay aloft.
by Jim Hill
Flying waist high,
Then knee high,
Then knee high.
Is it hard to fly?
Defying the earth?
Do you love
Daring gravity’s kiss?
The feel of falling?
The teasing moment
Between flight and fail?
Your little wings
Beat the air
Up, up and away.
Muscle and reflex
In perfect time.
A darting rhythm,
I recently discovered Poetry Friday (thanks Greg Pincus!) and will be hosting it at then end of January. Today I get my feet wet with this piece, from an adolescent’s POV. There is a tight rope walked when you want to be hugged, but are kind of embarrassed by your parents. Growth, change, finding your place in the ever embiggening world. I tried to capture a glimpse of that confusion here. Hope you like it.
It’s been a very busy week. I’m currently in the air, headed to the Big Sur Children’s Writing Workshop, I tried to cram the day job into a three day week, and I received my first tuition bill for the grad school adventure.
So, yeah, just a little crazy. That level of stress and distraction led me to forget my son’s lunchbox on the counter. And that threw off my carefully scheduled day because I had to get it to him before lunch or risk being a cautionary tale for forgetful dads everywhere. (He selfishly forced his son eat school snacks and water instead of going out of his way to bring the nutritious lunch his wife made. Shun him. Shun. Him.)
Since I had to be out of the house at lunch time anyway (I work from home), I decided to treat myself to a sandwich. It so happens that the sandwich shop is next door to a used bookstore. How could any bibliophile resist the siren call of aged parchment and dust mites? How?
I perused the shelves for craft books to support that grad school thing (no luck), and then took a turn through the kid’s section. That’s where I saw it, and a long overdue reunion happened, right there in the stacks behind self-help and adjacent to biography. Cue the chorus of angels.
I moved to Cape Cod at the beginning of third grade. The transition was rough, but not horrible. Nobody enjoys being the new kid, and I missed my old friends and my old school. But this new school had one incredibly cool thing my old school didn’t – hallways lined with books that anyone could borrow. A bonus library of sorts. Right there in the hall. I faked more than a few trips to the bathroom in pursuit of those stories. Even then I loved reading, seeking refuge and escape in stories of great adventures. And there was this one book…
Yes, there was this one book about a kid with a pet dolphin who lived with his scientist parents in an undersea lab. He spent his days swimming free in the warm Caribbean waters accompanied, and kept safe, by his dolphin buddy. A fierce, intelligent pet without peer. As I write this, I realize the pet dolphin may have been a big part of why I escaped into this particular story. My pet, a dog named Max, didn’t adjust well to our move. He unlearned his house training and got mean (he bit me twice). No longer boy’s best friend, Max was shipped off to the local animal shelter, leaving me just a little bit more alone.
Now here’s the thing. I’ve remembered everything about that book for decades, except, of course, the title and the author. But I recognized the cover when I saw it, and may have let out a little, audible gasp. I reached for it, feeling transported to a hallway in a small school a couple of decades in the past. Seeing in my mind’s eye, the hands of a lonely boy reaching with me. My past, my present, interwoven in a momentary fold of time.
Have you ever experienced that feeling? Long form déjà vu. A glitch in the matrix. A sense memory freed from the subconscious. The lingering, feathery touch of the eternal now. One with the universe.
Books can do that.
The book? It’s not a classic. You’ve probably never heard of it, although it spawned two sequels (thank you, Internet). It’s a simple “sci-fi boys adventure” book in a style popular at the time of its writing. But the author! The author is a notable science fiction writer, who’s novels and collections of short stories I devoured throughout middle school and into college. That was the greatest surprise to me. This formative book, authorship long forgot, was penned by someone that was at one time a favorite. Were my tastes formed by this book, or already in place at the age of seven?
In a mad-dash of a week, a moment of serendipity brought me great joy, reconnecting me with a favorite of childhood. A missing piece of my personal literary history revealed brought clarity to a host of reading choices made since.
All because I forgot my son’s lunchbox. A butterfly flaps its wings.
I’ve had a lot of fun showing off giving out my new card to just about anyone that shows the tiniest bit of interest in what I do. But more than a few folks have asked why the monkey is wearing pants. Well, there’s a funny story that goes with that particular character design, so pull up a chair and set a spell.
A few months ago my three year old son started calling almost all of his stuffed animals “her”, “she” or giving them girl names. Now, I don’t have a problem with that, I’m more Alan Alda than Charlton Heston, and if he wants to explore gender issues with his toys, so be it. But I was curious, so I decided to ask him when the time was right.
Later that week we were going through the bedtime routine; read two stories, one last trip to the potty, back to bed for snuggling (awwww….). He decided he wanted the little elephant that I called Eubie but he insisted was Ellie. Great, thinks I, here’s my chance.
“Isaac, why do you think so many of your stuffed animals are girls?”
He picked up the elephant, turned it around so the back end was facing me and, with the sincerity that only a child can muster said,
“Look, Daddy, no bulbs.”
Yep, Isaac had gleaned that fact the boys have “bulbs” and girls do not (gosh they grow up so fast).
And that’s why the monkey wears pants. No snot nosed kid is going to tell me that Little Mister Monkey is really Little Miss Monkey ’cause he’s got no junk. And I’m not about to start drawing anatomically correct animals for kids. Besides, who wants to do that research? (Never google anything about animal genitals, I beg you).