They’ve asked me to write them a poem, my boys have. In four-four time. And it will not, in fact, be so much of a poem as it will be song lyrics, lyrics written for the music they have already written during one of their music sessions in the basement.
They are on their instruments a lot lately: Will on the guitar (acoustic or electric) and Everett on the drums. Will plays even more frequently, as he broke his ankle five weeks ago and so has missed baseball season (well, he played in two games) and can’t (for the time-being) juggle his soccer ball. Everett’s visits to the drum set are more dutiful, but he’s broken through a barrier of some kind. His teacher reports being consistently impressed by our guy, who is inventing new rhythms (imagine!) and Really Enjoying Himself.
And now they’ve written a song. At least one, maybe more. I don’t know how many, in truth.
But they need lyrics, so they’ve asked me.
I’ve given it some thought, of course. My writing has fallen off in recent weeks: my bi-weekly visits to the Larger Project, visits which have sometimes rendered as many as 1000+ words and other times fewer than 200, have been almost non-existent in this last month; and the month ahead, which includes end-of-school activities and the senior trip to NYC and honors project symposiums, not to mention countless papers to grade, doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of writing time. June, I tell myself. June is the month for me.
But a poem can’t be that hard, right? Poems are short. Easy. Ha. Well, I’ve tried my hand at poetry, at stripping away my language to its essential roots, at finding the word that encapsulates and crystallizes, the mot juste, as my dear old writing professor would say.
Writing poetry– good poetry– is Very Difficult Indeed.
Still, I have thought about it. And what comes? Bill’s hands, resting for an unnecessary moment on my shoulders just after he’s tied or buttoned something for me. My back is to him and I am knowing his hands there for just a moment before I am tearing myself away, racing through breakfast and out the door for another day at school. What comes is Emma Grace stretching, her face contorting in that wrenching twist that means drawing her out of sleep. I am sitting on her bed, talking softly to her, trying to wake her into another day, and I am thinking– as she subconsciously draws the back of her hand across her face– that she woke just like this when she was a baby. What comes is Will, suddenly taller than me by, for now, only fractions of an inch. But how– and when, exactly– did that happen? What comes is Everett on the new swings in our backyard, going there voluntarily before and after dinner, trying to reach with his feet the newborn leaves that dangle before and behind him. What comes is the leaves themselves, newborn, that make that sound when the wind comes.
Can I make that into a poem, do you think? All of that which comes to me when I think of writing a poem? And can that poem be song lyrics? And would those be words sung by adolescent or nearly adolescent boys?