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.
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.")