A few small repairs

Shawn Colvin’s fourth album, A Few Small Repairs, is currently on rotation in our car. Albums tend to receive a three to four week continual play schedule because one or the other of the boys (usually G) latch on to a particular song or two, asking for it by name. The trick is getting an entire album I really like and waiting for them to space out a little so that I can listen to the other songs on the album besides the two they are repeatedly requesting.

For weeks—nay, months—it was the Indigo Girls’ album RaritiesI finally had to tell Gabriel that they wouldn’t let us check it out from the library anymore (I lied). A Few Small Repairs is replete with declarative choruses and recognizable images, both of which are right up three-year-old G’s alley. The first song—Sunny Came Home—satisfyingly begins,

Sunny came home to her favorite room
And Sunny sat down in the kitchen
She opened a book and a box of tools
Sunny came home with a mission

That’s what G likes: physical realities. He knows kitchens, he loves books. Tools are his favorite and his best. The kid was born with a mission. And it’s hilarious to listen to his three-year-old mind try to make sense of the songs. But the first song that caught his fancy was Get Out of This House. He requested it by name. He walked around the house sing-shouting, “Get Out of This House! Get Out of This House!”

Now he’s come around to the sixth track, I Want It Back. The chorus has the same commanding, repetitive tone as Get Out of This House, but G is perplexed. In the car he muses, somewhat rhetorically, “I don’t know how to figure it out what them want back…” The connections he and Jonah make in their brains are astounding to me.

I shared this short animation a few posts back, but HERE it is again. Especially notice the difference between the representations of the adult and child-sized brains. The rate at which child’s mind makes associations and connections far outpaces the adult mind (habitually committed to our thought highways as we are).

Marianne Moore’s poem “What Are Years?” comes to mind. I love that I just found it on a Children’s Poetry Archive site, because poetry is for everyone. [Another recent find: HBO’s A Child’s Garden of Poetry. Here is a clip of Liam Neeson reading “When You Are Old” by Yeats and of Carrie Fisher reading “Brother” by Mary Ann Hoberman.]

Here is the last stanza of “What Are Years?” —but please click through to read the thing entire.
Or listen instead.

       So he who strongly feels
behaves. The very bird,
       grown taller as he sings, steals
his form straight up. Though he is captive
his mighty singing
says, satisfaction is a lowly
thing, how pure a thing is joy.
       This is mortality,
       this is eternity.


Poem in Your Pocket

As yesterday was Poem in Your Pocket Day, part of the annual festivities associated with National Poetry Month, I am delighted to share a little something. Rather than sifting through my inbox folder of poems I read online or picking up a favorite poet’s work (Julia Kasdorf Spicher, Elizabeth Bishop, William Stafford, Wisława Szymborska, Anna Akhmatova, Jane Kenyon and Lisel Mueller all come to mind, if you’re interested), I’m going to share the poesy of Jonah Caedmon Estes.

Sure, he’s not trying to make poems, but the way that language comes out of him often borders on the poetic, if not the profound. To be faithful to our day-to-day experience, just as often his vocal trippings approach inanity and outright annoyance (in terms of my ability to tolerate the repetition and pitching of words and voice), but as with any being human, what he says is worth paying attention to.

This is way too much build-up. It’s just that I write down the things that he says, and this particular sentence astonishes me. He was trying to get some idea or plan across to John; I don’t remember the context. I just heard the words come out of his mouth and trotted off to my computer to get them down before I forgot. Reading it now, I see I should probably tattoo it on my arm.

You act that you don’t
know what I am but I am
what I’m trying to be.

Jonah Caedmon Estes
(line breaks by Jennifer Jantz Estes)

jonah sad face crop

[Click HERE to see some amazing and unique animation that visually renders “my Jonah”,
as Gabriel likes to say. Jonah loves talking about his brain.]



I know I need to cut back on posting published poems without permission. I tell myself the poets would rather someone read their work than worry about rights. In most cases, they’ve already given up their rights, so it’s the publishers I’ll have to answer to. All the same, I throw caution to the wind (with this sidenote: the poet represented below retains her rights).

The crocuses and snowdrops are breaking through and opening up. It is a wonder how much delight I feel when I see their happy yellow heads. And with the snow still in sight! I want to tell them, wait, wait. You will live longer if you wait. What terrible advice. Live better, not longer, they sensibly return.


First Crocus
by Christine Klocek-Lim

This morning, flowers cracked open
the earth’s brown shell. Spring
leaves spilled everywhere
though winter’s stern hand
could come down again at any moment
to break the delicate yolk
of a new bloom.

The crocus don’t see this as they chatter
beneath a cheerful petal of spring sky.
They ignore the air’s brisk arm
as they peer at their fresh stems, step
on the leftover fragments
of old leaves.

When the night wind twists them to pieces,
they will die like this: laughing,
tossing their brilliant heads
in the bitter air.

© Christine Klocek-Lim

crocus 2


six apologies, lord

[Note: My friend-poet-C shared this poem with me this week. I can’t get it out of my mind.
Clouds, LordandLover, My Teeth In This My Mouth…]

I Have Loved My Horrible Self, Lord.
I Rose, Lord, And I Rose, Lord, And I,
Dropt. Your Requirements, Lord. ‘Spite Your Requirements, Lord,
I Have Loved The Low Voltage Of The Moon, Lord,
Until There Was Moon Intensity Left, Lord, No Moon
   Intensity Left
For You, Lord. I Have Loved The Frivolous, The Fleeting, The
Clouds. Lord, I Have Loved Clouds! Do Not Forgive Me, Do Not
Forgive Me LordandLover, HarborandMaster,
   GuardianandBread, Do Not.
Hold Me, O, Lord, Hold Me

Accountable, Lord. I Am
Accountable. Lord.

Lord It Over Me,
Lord It Over Me, Lord. Feed Me

Hope, Lord. Feed Me
Hope, Lord, Or Break My Teeth.

Break My Teeth, Sir,

In This My Mouth.

–Olena Kalityak Davis, “six apologies lord”
from Shattered Sonnets, Love Card, and Other Off and Back Handed Importunities

The exchange of gifts

I sometimes think that my vocation as a human being is simply to pass on what I’ve found, particularly in books. Originality is overrated. Too much beauty and truth to be found in other people’s stories. The following is from the last pages of Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, which is a fine sort of parable in and of itself, brimming with epiphanies.

In an essay called “Childhood and Poetry,” Pablo Neruda once speculated on the origins of his work. Neruda was raised in Temuco, a frontier town in southern Chile. To be born in Temuco in 1904 must have been a little like being born in Oregon a hundred years ago. Rainy and mountainous, “Temuco was the farthest outpost in Chilean life in the southern territories,” Neruda tells us in his memoirs. He remembers the main street as lined with hardware stores, which, since the local population couldn’t read, hung out eye-catching signs: “an enormous saw, a giant cooking pot, a Cyclopean padlock, a mammoth spoon. Farther along the street, shoe stores—a colossal boot.” Neruda’s father worked on the railway. Their home, like others, had about it something of the air of a settlers’ temporary camp: kegs of nails, tools, and saddles lay about in unfinished rooms and under half-completed stairways.

Playing in the lot behind the house one day when he was still a little boy, Neruda discovered a hole in a fence board. “I looked through the hole and saw a landscape like that behind our house, uncared for, and wild. I moved back a few steps, because I sensed vaguely that something was about to happen. All of a sudden a hand appeared—a tiny hand of a boy about my own age. By the time I came close again, the hand was gone, and in its place there was a marvellous white toy sheep.

“The sheep’s wool was faded. Its wheels had escaped. All of this only made it more authentic. I had never seen such a wonderful sheep. I looked back through the hole but the boy had disappeared. I went in the house and brought out a measure of my own: a pine cone, opened, full of odor and resin, which I adored. I set it down in the same spot and went off with the sheep.

“I never saw either the hand or the boy again. And I have never seen a sheep like that either. The toy I lost finally in a fire. But even now…whenever I pass a toyshop, I look furtively into the window. It’s no use. They don’t make sheep like that anymore.”

Neruda has commented on this incident several times. “This exchange of gifts—mysterious—settled deep inside me like a sedimentary deposit,” he once remarked in an interview. And he associates the exchange with his poetry. “I have been a lucky man. To feel the intimacy of brothers is a marvellous thing in life. To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that come from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses—that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.

“That exchange brought home to me for the first time a precious idea: that all humanity is somehow together…It won’t surprise you then that I have attempted ot give something resiny, earthlike, and fragrant in exchange for human brotherhood…

“This is the great lesson I learned in my childhood, in the backyard of a lonely house. Maybe it was nothing but a game two boys played who didn’t know each other and wanted to pass to the other some good things of life. Yet maybe this small and mysterious exchange of gifts remained inside me also, deep and indestructible, giving my poetry light.”

from The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, by Lewis Hyde, pp. 366-68

So this is me quoting Lewis Hyde quoting Pablo Neruda. Just the way a gift ought to go.

And then he was three

With age comes awareness. Okay, not always, but in the case of Gabriel Keats this maxim continues to prove true. It was tough, waiting until after Jonah came home from school to eat his cake (flourless chocolate o-my-gosh-delicious like the best Ding Dong minus the cream filling cupcakes you’ve ever tasted). Not to mention open his presents. We were on high alert and still didn’t see him swipe a couple of the chocolatey treats, even trying to light his own candles and singing himself Happy Birthday in the process. So yes, this year, G understood what “birthday” means.

flourless delightblockhead bogle

I was more, um, circumspect. No. I was flat out cranky. Won’t get into that now (or probably ever), but the last few days have been of the keeping-your-head-above-water sort. But in a good way, even a helpful way. Which is just to say (geesh, I use that phrase a lot—why don’t I just come out and say it already?), while I’ve been cranky, I haven’t gotten away from myself. Make sense? Embody the cranky, I say.

Quick side note. When Jonah knows I’m cranky, magical things happen. In part this is because he can’t stand to see me sad or in a bad mood. The slightest turn in my voice and the I love you moms start rolling. We get each other, J and I. We can inhabit the same emotional space: manically sad, prone to meltdown and tantrum. Depleted of nutrients or sleep, the ride is swift and debilitating. Sometimes, Jonah is the only one who can pull me out. “Would you like to talk mom? Would that make you feel better?” He’s said that. My autistic son has asked me that question; and when I responded, “No Jonah, I’m just too sad and mad to talk right now,” he said, “It’s okay. Wanna hear about my dreams last night?” Excuse me Simon Baron-Cohen, but you can stick your theories about autism and empathy where the sun don’t shine.

Enough about that. Gabriel is three. And so pleased was he with his wheelbarrow and his new red rubber boots (which nicely match his new red Blockheads). He flipped over his very own small (also rubber) knife. He was over the moon over his new trash truck. It’s the bomb. Three hatches that open. A front loading dumper, a back loading dumper and a dump the whole bed back option. It even has a handle you can (manually) crank to simulate an engine sound.

John: “That’s one bitchin’ trash truck!”
Gabriel: “It sure is!”

my own knifebitchin' trash truck

Thinking about the birth of the boys and the blessed fact they’re still alive and fairly well-adjusted is a good way to spend any day. I don’t want to make a habit of posting my poetry online, but I wrote this in the spring, and it seems appropriate to the day (which was actually Tuesday). An ode of sorts—to books and boys.

Happy Birthday G. Thanks for keeping me afloat J. Mama loves you.


Ode on Books and Boys

She turned
the page and thought
she heard above
the baby wake—the creak,
the rumble of sturdy baby-
weight shifting
the slats and bolted wood.

She stopped
the way a mother stops
who senses trouble: a child
troubled from sleep
by dreams or sickness, a woman
troubled to dread
the small hour be disturbed.

But silence prevailed, prevailed
until she turned the page
and hearing felt the tree that pulped
the paper of the book. Its creak
in a quiet wood, sun streams
throwing their straight arrows through
thatching limbs, hitting

their marks on the darkened floor.
The mulch came alive, sent
up a spark of shoot. The motes of
unseen traces moved the way
the boy moves: an atomic
beauty of disorder not so
much bouncing as rebounding from

every met resistance. She turned
again, and again rubbing
the paper between her fingers, feeling
the shifting trees, seeing
the boys among them scrambling
to the top. A script of muscle,
nerve and bone.