Sunday, September 9, 2012


What mighty energies lie slumbering at this moment in the brains of the school-children of Brooklyn?
                                                                                                                                 Walt Whitman

About sixteen years ago, inspired by the work of the poet Kenneth Koch, I started doing some writing workshops with elementary schoolkids.  Mostly I was at one school, but the last year I did the workshops, in the summer of '01, a friend and I took to the road & travelled all over Brooklyn, from Red Hook to Marine Park, Flatbush to Brownsville, working with children as they wrote about walking in the city, talking to animals, & the sheer multiplicities of selfhood.  We read Whitman, O'Hara & Delmore Schwartz. We asked a lot of crazy questions, and told the kids not to use rhyme.  They wrote bold, blazing, shy, tender, mysterious poems.  We felt a little guilty at how easy it was to set them off.  

This summer, as next-door's demolition looms, I've determined that I should a) throw out a lot of the things I've accumulated over the years & b) put together a box of most-prized possessions (apart from the practical essentials) in case the building starts to buckle & we need to bolt.  Both these tasks are impossible. I'm not good at throwing stuff out, or narrowing collections down.   Getting rid of books is a torture.  Though I don't have a lot of clothes, the peacocks of the closet - wilder older garments I haven't worn in years -  are hard to abandon.  And what about the puppet theater made from a bed's headboard?  The sagging bears who have visited Paris, summered in New Orleans, and featured in tales of espionage & mayhem? It's just not possible.  The most I've managed is to put out a few cardboard boxes on the sidewalk. 

Still, looking in the attic for things I can't get rid of, I found all sorts of items I'd lost or forgotten about.  Look!  Pictures of a first trip to Coney Island - 1984 - in gaudy technicolour .  A scrolled membership to artist P.K.'s Oscar Wilde Appreciation Society, circa 1977.  A scrap from a front-page British tabloid - my old friend H. with a dart in his head, the victim of football-fan hatred (no permanent injury done). The childrens' poems were up there too, and it was strange to step back in time & listen to their voices again.  They'd be twenty-somethings now. I enjoyed them so much that I think I'll post one here every so often.  Here we go.

Me and my mongoose
went to the pond
and skipped rocks
in the water.
He told me
about his
lovely daughters
Everlasting, Destination and Forever.
They each said
that they will
never ever
marry a monkey.
They are stupid
like dull donkeys.
They cry,
Everlasting said,
and also they lie
while looking you straight
into your eyes.
Destination said
I don't like donkeys because
they cause too
much commotion
in the world.
Besides, my children
will have long hair,
like the Lord.
I said,
To me,
a donkey is fine,
if you don't pay them
too much
                                      A.C.  June, 2001


Laura Goggin Photography said...


It would be fun to mail the poems to the now-adult kids. My 8th grade English teacher had students write a letter to themselves about where they thought they'd be in ten years. Ten years later, she mailed them. I'd totally forgotten about the project and was both amused and disappointed to read what I wrote. What lofty aspirations!

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Thanks! Unfortunately I don't think I could trace the kids I saw only once or twice, but I do know some of the ones I saw over a longer period of time. I wonder if they still have their anthologies? Fantastic, uninhibited writers.

Marty Wombacher said...

What a great poem! Please publish more of these.