Poetry Friday:A Happy Childhood by William Matthews

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Poetry Friday is hosted by Laura @ Author Amok

 

Back in school again, with a room full of new faces, new personalities to get to know, new learners to encourage and challenge.  My sixth graders were full of summer stories, as were my now 7th., 8th.,  9th. (and beyond) graders – happy stories about the beach, summer camps, family holidays.  It was good to be back in a noisy school again, and follow the hum (and occasional cacophony) of students at work and play.  I have many siblings of former students, too…some of whom are finishing up their college lives this year.  And, I am also coming to terms with my own empty nest; my own children’s childhoods are a thing of the past – happy memories.

With all of that on my mind, this poem really spoke to me:

A Happy Childhood by  William Matthews

Babies do not want to hear about babies; they like to be told of giants and castles.
Dr. Johnson

No one keeps a secret so well as a child
Victor Hugo

My mother stands at the screen door, laughing.
“Out out damn Spot,” she commands our silly dog.
I wonder what this means. I rise into adult air
like a hollyhock, I’m so proud to be loved
like this. The air is tight to my nervous body.
I use new clothes and shoes the way the corn-studded
soil around here uses nitrogen, giddily.
Ohio, Ohio, Ohio. Often I sing
to myself all day like a fieldful of August
insects, just things I whisper, really,
a trance in sneakers. I’m learning
to read from my mother and soon I’ll go to school,
I hate it when anyone dies or leaves and the air
goes slack around my body and I have to hug myself,
a cloud, an imaginary friend, the stream in the road-
side park. I love to be called for dinner.
Spot goes out and I go in and the lights
in the kitchen go on and the dark,
which also has a body like a cloud’s,
leans lightly against the house. Tomorrow
I’ll find the sweatstains it left, little grey smudges.

(you can read the rest here)

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18 thoughts on “Poetry Friday:A Happy Childhood by William Matthews

  1. So much to love in this, Tara, hard to choose a favorite line, but you’ve chosen a poem that touches all of us, children and adults. It’s so lovely. “it’s gonna be a cooker” takes me back to my childhood. People did say that in Missouri, more than once! Thank you-hope your week was grand!

  2. Tara, this was a new poem for me. I loved these lines:

    “It turns out you are the story of your childhood
    and you’re under constant revision,
    like a lonely folktale whose invisible folks

    are all the selves you’ve been, lifelong, …”

    “All the selves you’ve been” reminds me of the short story, “Eleven,” by Sandra Cisneros

  3. I also highlighted the lines Ramona did! Thanks for sharing, Tara, and best wishes with your new batch of students. My oldest has her own classroom now – hard when they leave the nest, but so rich to have young adults in the family. {{hugs}}

  4. Toward dawn, rain explodes on the tin roof
    like popcorn. The pale light is streaked by grey
    and that green you see just under the surface

    of water, a shimmer more than a color.

    Some really nice images in this poem! Thanks for introducing us to the poem!

  5. I love these lines most of all:
    “I hate it when anyone dies or leaves and the air
    goes slack around my body and I have to hug myself,
    a cloud, an imaginary friend, the stream in the road-
    side park.”
    My best friend is going through the loss of a relative right now, and will share these lines with her.
    I am glad to see that you’re enjoying the new faces in your classroom, dearest Tara.
    I am now having as much fun as I can with my 12 year old girl who has an overly-extended summer vacation (til end of December), now that she has been accepted to the School of the Arts here. I know I shall look back on these days with fondness.

  6. Wow. That’s quite the ramble. And from the comments, so many ways in.

    I loved this:

    “There’s no truth about your childhood,
    though there’s a story, yours to tend,

    like a fire or garden. Make it a good one,
    since you’ll have to live it out, and all
    its revisions, so long as you all shall live,”

    That we tend our story and all its revisions, and that our story is like a FIRE or a garden. What diverse tendings. What diverse stories we all tend, revise, and live out.

    Thanks. Great way to start the roundup this week.

  7. Ramona’s favorite lines are mine, too. Reminds me of “On Turning Ten” by Billy Collins- I shared that poem with my students this past week. I laughed at the Shakespeare allusion in the beginning! 🙂

  8. Happy new school year, Tara! I LOVE these lines of this poem:
    “It turns out you are the story of your childhood
    and you’re under constant revision,
    like a lonely folktale whose invisible folks
    are all the selves you’ve been, lifelong,
    shadows in fog, grey glimmers at dusk.”

  9. I like “a trance in sneakers” too, and the description of the air going slack around his body, as if the world has lost its moorings temporarily. How interesting that the dark would have a body like a cloud, and is sweaty even! What an imagination!

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