Tuesday, May 15, 2007

One Morning

The other morning the girls were playing in the yard and as I sat there watching Clara throw her head back as she sprinted around the yard, her arms flying wildly from side to side, I remembered something I had read - and taught - over ten years ago. It was a poem that really only stuck in my memory as a feeling, and I couldn't place any of the words or phrases. As Clara ran harder and harder, I was experiencing in kind of vicarious way her joy mixed with my contentment, her chaos with my peace -- the symbiotic wholeness of a parent with his or her child. In the edges of my mind that nearly forgotten poem kept whispering, "see, this is what I meant."

That night I tried to find the poem in old poetry books and though I enjoyed the stanza by stanza trip down memory lane, I couldn't find the poem. I tried googling what fragments I thought I remembered, but I struck out. After I had given up on finding it and returned to the couch to watch TV, there it was again at the edge of my memory, whispering "flower-sparked" and "between him and me." I googled those phrases and got a single hit, the blog of a woman who also found personal significance in the poem. There was the forgotten text in front of me, complete with memories of the students as we discussed the meter, style, and vivid colorful imagery - all the while none of us, teacher or students, had any idea what the poet was feeling. Can a poem, once a part of our consciousness, lay latent until our lives catch up to it? Will I find similar connections to poems when as an old man I dare to eat a peach, or when I beg my father to rage against the dying of the light? Will I hear it in the deep heart's core?

I once taught my students that poetry can add meaning and significance to our lives. It took a little girl running with all her might to teach me that our lives can add meaning and significance to poetry.

One Morning

I remember my littlest one in a field
running so hard at the morning in him
he kicked the heads off daisies. Oh, wild
and windy and spilling over the brim
of his sun-up juices he ran
in the dew of himself. My son.

And the white flower heads
shot like sparks where his knees
pumped, and his hot-shod
feet took off from time, as who knows
when ever again a running morning will be
so light-struck, flower-sparked-full between him and me.

- John Ciardi

(on a side note, I wrote this while laying in a hammock next to Clara, who was doodling on her little sketch pad. She said, "I'm writing like you.")


Michelle said...

You are killing me. I am welling up with tears. I can just see my kids doing that & I can feel what you feel. And I love the poem. Now how come you & Meg call me the sappy one? Seriously? THAT was sappy.

percival35 said...

Hey Joel...nice blog. I liked this reflection. I somehow came across this while doing some research. You have my respect for choosing to be a stay-at-home dad. Yes, poetry can add meaning to people's lives, they just have to read it. Teaching at USF now. Ordained a priest a couple of years ago. Congrats on the beautiful children and the happy family. You have my prayers.

Dennis Recio, SJ
English Department/USF

Joel Bittle said...

When I started this Blog I had hoped some old friends might stumble across it and say hello. Dennis, it's great to hear from you. Congratulations on your ordination and position at USF. The students there are lucky to have you. I miss my city.

I clicked on the Percival35 on your post there and got a blog, but under a different name. Is that you incognito?

Oh and Michelle, I've learned to embrace my inner sap.

FatherhoodOnline.com said...

Your poem is awesome, thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

I have been looking for this poem for four years, and I am pleased that I found it via you blog.
I, too, introduced that poem--to sophomores at Marin Catholic. Maybe nine or ten years later, I experienced the same feeling one morning and sought out and found the poem and showed it to my wife. Our son Andrew was two and a half or so and was intense in his joy of life. We thought to use the poem in relation to a photograph of Andrew; but, alas the page with the poem went missing.
I enjoyed your reflection--one well expressed.
Tom T