She says "I want you to write a poem about the world through a child’s eyes, and then how it changes so much as that same child grows up...how screwed up everything that seemed so magical and amazing becomes, how we don't see things the same way, how our innocence and purity fades as we get older... That is what I want please Mark."
I cannot say no to her....(Why would I ever want to?) But how do you write a poem for a girl who is a poem. It is like sitting in a garden full of flowers looking at a photo of flowers, well something like that.
But I think she wants more than a poem. I think she wants Superman to fly backwards around the world and reset the whole damn thing. I think she wants a world full of kids to get to be happy for just one day. I think she wants more than a poem, but then a poem is possible, a poem is not too much to hope for. A poem is not too much to ask. I wish I was Superman. That words were super powers.
I close my eyes. A fuzzy picture from Sunday school. Jesus with softness in his eyes, children on his lap. "Let the little children come to me for this is the Kingdom of Heaven." Jesus with fire flaring from his stare, better to tie a stone to your throat, he hisses, throw yourself into the sea, than to cause a child to lose faith in magic, to take their innocence.
Poems are too hard to write, poems write themselves. Every poet knows that. The rest are liars. Give credit where it is due. Poems are their own muse. But I will do this. Anything for her. She deserves this and so much more. I will write her a poem.
But first I start with a list. A list of childhood:
The beetle king and queen and their kingdom of dirt.
Jack the cloud giant.
The dog with his pillow saddle, a jump rope for reigns, a forked twig tucked into the elastic of underwear, the best six-shooter ever.
A sheet is always a cape. A scarf a secret identity. A limb is always a sword, except when it is a horse and usually both.
Cardboard rocketships. Couch cushion mission control.
Fresh cut grass and puddles upon puddles. Sloppy happy toe-soaking puddles.
Sticky tricky popsicles. Always popsicles.
But this is my childhood, not hers. Not the one that hundreds of thousands of children have. Wasting away in brothels and brick kilns. Innocence shattered. Magic a fools errand.
When we were young we preferred picture books, distrusted the thick volumes on the high shelves. Such unaffected vanity to tell us exactly how to feel, to not show us a picture and let us figure it out. And always some mothballed woolen mustached great aunt trying to kiss us. Well kisses are for turning frogs to princes, for dad to say he is sorry to mum, for last goodbyes. Kisses are not for yuck, nevermind. Girls are NOT allowed into the fort.
But if you feed us we grow. Children become adults. Play becomes work. War doesn't end at dinner time. The dead don't get dessert.
So I make another list. A responsible list. An adult one:
The beetle infestation in the yard. Call the exterminator. Monday will be fine. After 12.
These are the names of clouds. Cirrus, Cumulus, Stratus, Nimbus. Not Jack. Never Jack.
The dog is not a toy. The dog means this is the perfect life. The 2nd car, the dog, and the 401K. All on the list. All checked off.
Sheets and scarves are bought for their thread count. Twigs and limbs dull the lawnmower blades. They are for the burn pile. Only burn when there has been rain. Never on windy days.
Cardboard is to be recycled. Couch cushions go on the couch.
You are tracking grass and mud and water onto the....WIPE YOUR FEET!
Eat more fiber. Be regular. Regular is the key. You should have a bowel movement twice a day. Anything less is irregular. Take two of these and call your doctor if the condition persists.
Truth is, adults like picture books too. Books that make them feel what they cannot feel, souls so callous from excess. Child porn is pandemic. Sex the currency of hearts. There is a reason why adultery has the word adult in it. Let the grown ups do their dirty deeds, but what about the flesh trade in innocence?? What the hell is that? They did not choose this life!
That brings us to another list. Another reality. A list without words to tell you how to feel. Just images. Just a world where beetles are food for starving children. Where skies have the clouds of giant warplanes. Where guns are not pretend. Where if dinner even comes the dead don't un-die, bullets don't un-fire. Where dogs play in front of mansions built for them and homeless children play on garbage heaps. There are no capes or rockets to take the children from this. There is no escape. Not even in the magic mind of a child. Imagination does not, cannot exist, in the vacuum of hopelessness. There is only exploitation, rape, disease and death.
This is the reality for millions of children of our world. Unless we make a new list. A vow together, to each other. Not quite the poem she asked for, but maybe a start, maybe some beautiful words. Promises.
Promise to adopt a child or ten of the 143 million orphans in the world before we have another of our own.
Promise not to buy a house in a world of 200 million homeless, a third of those children. 17 million homeless orphans in India alone.
Promise to eat only what we need, and fast regularly in solidarity with the starving. In remembrance and honor for the 16,000 children that die everyday from hunger related disease.
Promise to never spend on an article of clothing what the average per capita income of a nation is. To never buy conflict jewels. Never buy jewels at all. To buy fairtrade, slave free products whenever we can.
Promise to reduce consumption, reuse, recycle. And give what we save to the poor. To sell all we do not need and do the same. To divest ourselves from the economy of self and invest in the future of children.
Promise. Promise you will open your mouth every day with prayers and praise and awe and wonder. That you will pour good back into this dirty world. That you will be a little purer. A little more innocent. That you will make a little magic.
Promise to be a voice for the voiceless. To never be less committed to justice than evil men and women are committed to injustice.
Promise to love until it hurts and then maybe just a little more.
But don't promise me. Promise yourself. Promise the children. Promise her.
|Daffodils...the flower of the first of spring...of new beginnings.|