Friday, November 15, 2013

My Son, the Poet?

A couple of weeks back, I did a local reading at Sip This cafe', in Valley Stream, a near suburb of New York City, and just a few miles from the hometown to which I returned in 2008, because my wife and I wanted Bradley to be close to at least one side of his family. We did not move back here for the poetry scene, though there is a lively one.

On this particular night a few months back I was reading with Gerry LaFemina, a great poet, a great friend, and the father of grown son. Gerry was happy Bradley was going to watch us do our thing. Bradley's only previous reading was at the Brownstone Poets Series in a diner in Downtown Brooklyn, when he was two. At that reading he managed to disrupt the proceedings and upset a lot of the grumpier regulars. This time would be different.

Bradley sat mostly quiet, and occasionally got up for one of the cafe''s good cookies or to use the bathroom. I'd given Bradley my Kindle, so he could play an app or two in case he got bored. Just after Gerry read, he came over, sat on my lap, and asked if he could read a poem. He had seen me search the poems I had on the Kindle. I knew that he would not be the first kid to read at Sip This, having seen young Atticus and Rainer Pasca read with their parent/poets Matt Pasca and Terri Muuss.

After the last open mic-er had read, it was Bradley's turn. People started getting up to leave, but Bradley was unfazed, took the mic, and launched into it:

Your Mother

I celebrate your mother and sing your mother,
and what I assume your mother shall assume.
And though I could not stop for your mother
she kindly stopped for me. Your mother, after all,
is not so old I could omit her, because

there is no country for old mothers.

Of course my boy chose one of the silliest and most vulgar poems I have, because he knows how to please a crowd. So all well and good, except that after the reading he asked me when the next reading was. So now we have to find a new poem for him to do. And guess who's reading with Daddy on our mutual birthday weekend? 

How long before we're workshopping? 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Son's First Stories

A couple of days ago my son sat next to me on the couch and wrote his first two stories. We have, since he was four (He's six), sat in the local park, on little blue metal benches at one of the workout stations, and told stories, chance a piece. So when he sat down with his index card notebook and a pen, I was not too surprised, and, though I don't wish the life of a writer on anyone, more than a little thrilled.

The writing was basically illegible, as he was trying for words he doesn't really know how to spell yet, but both stories involved "kids being naughty"; and one involved a kid leaving his "fake parents." As I said, I couldn't make much sense of his spelling, which may be just as well, since, when I went to look for these precious index cards just now, I learned they were accidentally thrown away.

The themes of his writing and the loss will almost certainly make him a writer.

Friday, November 23, 2012

We Bought My Son a Drum Kit

As a writer, as someone who craves peace, as someone who can be, frankly, anti-social at times, I have to question our decision to buy Bradley a drum kit for his sixth birthday. Yes, it is an appropriately and mercifully small drum kit (bass drum, tom, snare, hi-hat), but since we lack a finished basement, it now resides in the middle of our living room. That is not an exaggeration. We have a lovely white divan, the ottoman portion of which is now Bradley's drum stool. I have to admit that I was hoping he wouldn't love it. But he is a high-energy, determined, loud music-loving kid. Once we downloaded a couple of songs for him to drum along with ("Yellow Submarine," "Back in Black"--We haven't yet downloaded "Seven Nation Army," as a drummer friend suggested), the game was over for us. Whereas he usually has an attention span of five minutes, Bradley is able to sit at the kit for an hour sometimes, pounding away, very often actually on the beat. The saving grace thus far is that he does not favor the cymbal. We may have to conspire never to let him know there was a band called Led Zeppelin.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sam and Dave in a Jetta

It's 7:30 on a cool, August evening. The sun is setting through the pine trees on our little piece of land. We are sitting in our ten year-old VW Jetta, playing spaceship. I am wearing a pair of 3D glasses taken from a movie theater and deposited in the door compartment for moments like these, I suppose. Bradley, now four and a half, asks if we can listen to his Kidz Bop cd. I agree, on the condition that we go one song apiece, back and forth, his cds, my cds. Amazingly, he agrees. He rocks out to his synthesized dance tunes. I go all Sam and Dave: "Wrap It Up." The tepid response I expect never comes. Instead, as soon as the horns kick in, Bradley screws up his face like a rock star and starts shaking and jumping all over the interior. I get cocky and try "Soul Man." He hits eject. I do my duty, whooping with him through "Who Let the Dogs Out." And, limited as I am by distance from home and little living space, I pull out the only other possible cd, Boston. He can't deal with the acoustic opening of "More Than a Feeling," so hits the skip track button, and practically rockets through the roof when he hears the opening chords to "Peace of Mind." By the time the electric guitar joins, he's slamming against the dashboard, his safety seat, the back doors. He's rolling down a back window and pushing open the door, swaying in the grass outside the car like a possessed see-saw. I look over my shoulder to see if my wife, working inside the trailer, is catching any of this. When we come back to tell her, she says, "Of course I heard you. The whole town heard you." 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tribute to My Son's Summers

Here's an ode to the accent my son will hear on his summer vacations, and to the 15th anniversary of the classic movie "Fargo."

Great Lakes
Barn yard on my father’s farm:
The car alarm! I’m seein’ stars.
Bob’s at the bar with Carl and Marge.
It’s not far, but parking’s hard.

And, Oh, God, what’s that large mark
on your forearm. Fooling with the dog,
now that wasn’t too smart.
Your head was always hard.

 Too many movin’ parts. We’re dodgin’ rocks,
but you got a big heart, big as Scot’s.
His snow-thrower’s big as an ox.
Now relax, and let me charge the box.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Pre-Parent Vision

Friends, here is something I wrote just before the advent of our son Bradley. Is this a metaphorically prescient grasp of parenthood?

Their Little Ears are Sensitive

Consider this when you plan your trip.
Stuff your little ones with cotton balls,
to keep their ears from popping.

Their little bums are sensitive.
Lay in loads of aloe for the bumpy trip
over the Ambibian mountains,

because their little feet are expensive.
If they shatter, the sound is startling.

Their little hands are starting to reach
for the controls. Slap them down
and scream louder than they can.

Their little grips are like vices
you have when they aren’t looking,

and your little face is a pliable board.
They hold you in some kind of place.

Their little minds are like sponges.
Remember to wring them out.

Their little heads wobble,
so secure them, with tape if need be,
or teach them to focus

their little eyes on a single finger
you flash like a knife
you should never leave out,

because their little wills
are stronger than yours.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Yelling and Screaming

I used to save much of my yelling and screaming for the page. Over the last year or two (Bradley's third and fourth years on Earth), I've been doing more of it aloud and more often seeking peace (understanding of screaming and yelling's root causes?) on the page. Or is that a misconception? Does anger with a child's irrational stubbornness or with one's own inability to cope with it translate into rage on the page? Or does it really turn the process of writing into a meditative walk by the holy pond with its silent, scheming koi?

I've always thought that distance from raging emotions was a necessity for writing anything other than spoken word-style poetry. But what if the writer/parent lives in a state of constant emotional rage, which roils either above, below, or well below the surface of that pond? What if this rage subsides only when the child's raging hormones lead him/her away from the shadow of the host fish? Or what if at that point it just explodes?