Sunday, April 3, 2011

Juvenilia II: Tandem Poems

Writing of any sort is almost always a solitary activity. You think alone, you write alone, you often read your works out loud in an empty room. Only the act of publishing is public.

As a teenager, I was acutely shy and self-conscious. Publicly sharing any of my private work, especially my poetry, was an ordeal.

I was very fortunate in that I had someone with whom I could share my writing. My older brother had a classmate, Kam, who also loved to write. I never knew much about Kam as he was a senior year transfer to our school and then went into the Air Force right out of high school. His first year in the military, he would come back to Delaware on leave and sometimes come over to our house to shoot a game of pool (we had a full sized, regulation pool table right inside the back door), eat a home cooked meal, and tell jokes.

Kam and I corresponded for some three years, frequently exchanging poetry. For many years, I kept a sheaf of his work in with my own poetry. I assumed they disappeared when I shredded my work. Recently, while going through old high school literary magazines looking for my early poems, I was stunned to discover I had tucked his poems carefully away in one of them.

The following poems are our responses to a self-directed assignment: write a rhyming poem about a man named Thomas who runs a merry-go-round. When we mailed one another our poems, we were amazed and amused to see we had done very similar treatments of the topic. We had even each shortened Thomas to Thom.


T. H. Gurdy 
               By Kameron A. Mitchell

Wipe the smile from your face, Thom
     Can't stand to see you strain
     After all - it's only life
     And life is everything that rhymes
     And life is everything that loses
What it hasn't left behind.
Now you've given up your mind
     For an organ and a monkey
     Who is just a bit unkind
     Oh - I don't see how you tolerate
     Mischievous ways and how he ate
     The last banana from your bunch
         In my opinion - he's too much.
At this you're better off alone
     But you won't make it on your own.
     You're not the man who cried aloud
        And not the man who thinks he's proud.
Just T. H. Gurdy - man of pleasure
Who'd hurt no one at any measure.
     And if bringing joy to others
    Will bring happiness to you,
Then make your dangling monkey dance
With music rolled out to entrance
     The children with a happy sound
    As people gather all around.
The monkey brings to each a laugh
     And in return a dime or half
A hard earned dollar's tossed
     So great a joy and small the cost
     For heavy hearts to be brought up
     By grateful coins within a cup.
And no one sees your tattered coat
    Or soiled bandana 'round your throat
     They never notice worn through shoes
    And strands of thread in faded hues.
Your music's now your life and love
Your life is what they know and love
Your love is what they understand
'Cause you're their hurdy-gurdy man.

Thom, they always said  
                By April Nelson
Thom, they always said the man
    who ran the merry-go-round
had dreams of being grand
    in this promised land…
        yet he wanted real horses to tend
              instead of wooden ones to mend;
        full blooded racers
            instead of gay painted pacers.
        no maypole spacings.
        no calliope pacings.
        no "ten cents a ride" -
            silver dime pride is all you earn
        when the brass ring gives another turn.

Thom, they always said the man
    who flew the flying jenny
had a warm, kind face
    when he set the flyer's pace…
        yet he dreamed of thundering feet
            instead of tin music bleat;
        measuring out feed
            instead of guarding poled steeds.
        no round ring stumpings.
        no wooden flank bumpings.
        no continual flyings -
            you know you're lying when you sing
        to the tune of the old brass ring.

Thom, they always said the man
    who guided the carousel
wrought a magic spell
    when he rang its bell…
        yet he longed for winning streaks
            instead of wood hooves meek;
        race winning pay
            instead of spun sugar days.
        no merry-go-rounds.
        no ups-and-downs.
        no splintery fears -
            he wanted the cheers of racing form fame
        so much more than the brass ring game.

Thom, they always said…
    Damn, Thom, can't you see?
        that kind-faced man,
        that magic man -
    that merry-go-round man is me.    


Terri said...

Oh, I really like the last stanza of your poem. Are you still in touch with Kam? And does he still write poetry?

April said...

Teri, I haven't seen Kam in 35 years. Last I heard, the reunion committee for his class didn't have contact either. I would be curious to know if he kept up with the writing. I only have 5 or so of his poems--I may slip another one (on baseball) at some point!