Parting Glance: Stop! Look! Listen!

By |2014-03-13T09:00:00-04:00March 13th, 2014|Opinions, Parting Glances|

Shortly before retiring from the digitally enhanced combat called teaching I came across a bound volume of back issues of Detroit Public Schools news about students, teachers, and education, circa mid-50s.
Flipping through the collection I was surprised to find a poem I had written at Harry Burns Hutchins Intermediate School, to and from which I took a 10-cent bus ride for three happy years. 1948 to 1951. I still judge Hutchins one of the best learning experiences of my life.
My poem was originally included in a student-illustrated hand-stapled, mimeographed booklet, “The Coach and Four.” (I began writing poetry during my first summer at Baptist Camp. The “gift” came along with an equally inspiring and poetic crush on my counselor.)
Though I wrote “The Clock” when I was 13, I’ll be the first to admit — modestly — that there’s about it a touch of precocious, otherworldly, Emily Dickinsonian, Americana genius. Said youthful opus contains insights not normally accessible to persons, shall we say, less sensitive. (Or, “jocund” in the original sense of gay.)
Having provided such introductory palaver, here’s the poem in its pristine simplicity. (I’ll be delighted to read same in person for any festive occasion warranting the inclusion of a spiritually uplifting, LGBT-inspired, rhymed composition. Gratis.) And so…
“Our dusty old clock sits on the shelf. Ticking softly there by itself. Slowly counting the hours away. As night turns to another day. Winter. Summer. The whole year through: Tick tock, I hear it. Do you? We grow old and pass away. But the clock goes on from day to day.”
Oh, well. I was only several months post-pubescent when I yielded to that inspired but premature calling of the muse.
Shared also in passing. When I went to Burton Elementary school part of our learning experience was poetry memorization. So; If asked – again gratis – I can recite “Casey at the Bat, Wordsworth’s “Daffodils,” and Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees.”
Actually, I learned my first poem in kindergarden. It has been a cautionary godsend and rhythmic beacon for most of my adult life: “Stop! Look! And listen! Before you cross the street. Use your eyes. Use your ears. And then use your feet.”
Come to think of it as a kid I was Mr. Starlit Stairway – with an enthusiasm I find refreshing looking back on it. At Hutchins I also did a ventriloquism act, with a dummy named Hermann, purchased at Hall’s long-vanished Magic Shop in downtown Detroit. I haven’t a clue what my script was. I think it had something to do with the terrors of jaywalking; but apparently I got enthusiastic applause for my schizoid efforts.
That same year I put on a magic show at the Cass Avenue Methodist Church. As the proud owner of a multipurpose Gilbert’s Magic Set – linking rings, deck of prepared cards, trick magic wands, vanishing handkerchiefs, fake mustache. I felt myself Harry Houdini incarnate. (Handcuffs came much later.)
My performance left a lot to be desired I’m sure. But I had a grand time, a free dinner, and the applause and made me a celeb of sorts, if only for a half-hour’s indulgence.
Looking back on “me” I smile at the refreshing, unsullied innocence of the likable kid I think I was. Life had a wow! pow! quality about it. Get out on stage. Take charge! Pull rabbits out of hats! Link rings. Change silken hankies. Purple! Blue! Green! Red! Yellow! Orange! … Rainbow Hocus Pocus.
Hey, kid! Stay young forever … and possibly a day.

About the Author:

Charles Alexander