Friday, October 3, 2014

Taking a Kiss to School [poem]

Taking a Kiss to School

Like a gun, he used it to shoot out
Mrs. Peterson when she gave him
the hairy eyeball for talking out of turn,
and Joshua, who knocked him
off the monkey bars on purpose
and said it was an accident.

The kiss was still there in gym,
when the ball bounced off his head
instead of his forearms like it’s supposed to
and the coach’s vein popped out
when he hollered, Open your eyes, son!

He sat on the bleachers for a time out
and thought for the thousandth time
of his father’s arm wrapped around her,
his father’s hand spread flat on
his mother’s back, their waists touching,
his mother’s lips’ corners still curved up,
enjoying a joke she’d just made,
his father kissing that joke on the mouth,

even though last night he’s said
Damn it, Sarah when he’d stepped
in dripped bath water with his socks on,
even though last month, for almost
a whole week they’d moved
careful around each other like sore bones,

this morning they were pressed
together in front of him,
tasting each other’s coffee and toothpaste,
so he felt alright to fail a little here and there –
at home was proof you could be forgiven.

This one is pure imagination - me writing about something I didn't experience, from the perspective of someone I'm not.

I was rolling a few ideas around in my head like marbles in the awake dark this morning. (If I ever say I've lost my marbles, it probably means I'm out of poem ideas - I usually use more clinical terms for the other stuff.) None of the marbles were ready yet. Rolling them in my head, they were all a little wobbly, needed some smoothing out.

So I started thinking about how it was going to be light soon, and kids were getting ready to go to school. And it's a little chillier in the mornings now. The kids in my area huddle up in a group to wait for the school bus in the morning.

I started thinking about what those kids were taking on the bus with them, other than books and school supplies. You never know. Some of them, if not most of them, probably have a lot on their shoulders - worries, fears. What is their home like for them? I remember what mine was like. What is school like for them? What do they face there? It makes me concerned for them.

So I wrote the opposite of what I had at home. I wrote from my imagination what it might have been like to go to school from a stable home, a home with sanity and love in it. I wrote about what a solace that might be when you're out in the cruel world of school as a kid.

I thought about how home life makes such a difference - for the child individually, for the school of children collectively. We're always hearing about home life in the fallout of a school shooting. We had one in my area just recently. A little north of me, in Albemarle, NC.

Much of the focus is on whether the kid was loved right, or enough, or paid enough attention. I haven't seen too much focus on how the parents did or didn't get along, and how the child witnessing that - one way or the other - affects them.

I purposely wrote the poem so that the reader might be led in the first part to think that the child had received the kiss, maybe from a parent, before I revealed that the child had witnessed the kiss between his mother and father, and how that was just as impactful, if not more so. How witnessing love can help a child make it through a tough day - implying, hopefully, how the lack of such a home life can leave a child with little ammunition to face their daily hardships. I hope readers think about that, too - I hope they think of the effects of a home that's the opposite of what I portray here. Seems that even when I do quaint, or warm and fuzzy, I'm wanting to shine a light on darkness.

I thought back and forth about using gun in the first line - am I making my point too heavy-handedly?

I wrote this poem on October 3, 2014 as part of Tupelo Press's 30/30 Project.

I just want to say, as an endnote, off the topic of this particular poem and about the 30/30 Project in general - I am absolutely loving this. I go to bed excited to write a poem the next day. I wake up rolling poem-marbles around in my head. I think about poem-potentials all day. It's deliriously wonderful.

* Addendum: Reading the poem again, I realized it could also be taken initially that the kid was kissing people. Hmmmm.

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