Sound. Silly. Brain. Touch. Taste. Rain.
My entry into poetry month, here at the half-way mark, was to perform for my 5-year old boy's class on Poem In Your Pocket Day. The poetry teacher did a fabulous job, creating a word-environment around the school. Poetry everywhere, words on paper, taped-up in corners, hallways, doors—to walk in one's alphabet, to actually listen to the words you step through…this is where my mind catapulted itself while standing near words on ceilings too close to my head. A few months ago, my boy told me about the poetry being read in school, "I'm a poet, you know," he told me. I immediately agreed…especially after reading a poem he wrote last week called "Yellow Butter."
Now I should say here that there's a lesson to be had in singularity—that's a sci-fi buzzword now. But the essence of surrendering control to what controls you, to the energetic vibration of trust (corny, cliche, sorry), the real matter of allowing the universe to take care of you, to follow the seeming now—hmmm, my tangent envelops the point with fingers. Tapping this laptop keyboard. Dried in simulacrums of dust. Galactic inquiries of physical impositions. The sort of celebrity that intellect dares with reason. My point…
The poet is a born being. Does he know he is—now, or later when he needs it? When she needs it? I think the poet is always there. My boy is always a poet, because his daddy is. But he is also there because he knows he needs it. If he grows to be what fills him, he is the poet. I never told him, his parents never walled him in—with artistry, with liberation, with obstruction, with desire. He knows. Innate. Innate beings, until we're told we are.
As it turns out, he didn't write "Yellow Butter" but he believed he did. So I said, Well, do you have any favorite poets?…waiting for Dr. Seuss to trickle out. And from his cognitive intellect, he looks at me with a confidence pointing towards what awaits in his teenage years, and with crystal clarity states, "Jack Perlovsky." My mouth dropped open, respecting his education but wondering, what the heck are they teaching you? Which of course reflects, what the heck don't I know?
Wow, can you tell me one of his poems, I said. I don't remember, he said. But you like them, I said. They sound like yours, he said. Fast forward to my visit—I was a mystery guest (to everyone but my boy) waiting at the carriage house, which is the library, while all the kids and the rest of the school waited in the main building. I arranged the room a bit, I knew the kids had all made their own pocket to wear around the neck, so I made a huge pocket out of sack-fabric that could lay on the floor. A pocket as big as I was with my poems inside it, lying on the floor within the fold of its material, waiting to be discovered, birthed, imploded. A metaphor to me—to the kids, a floppy jungle gym.
"Peesacho" is a poem of mine with a life of its own. It's a silly sound poem built around the conceit of pronouncing the silent "P" in the word "Psycho." A great way to show students, of all ages, sound in language. I knew my boy loved its play and rhythm and felt it would be a great ice-breaker…though I'd never done it for such a young group. I wrote PSYCHO on a chalkboard and prefaced my presentation to the kids by saying if they had any questions, they could always raise their hands and I'd stop to answer them. Thereby initiating a can of worms immediately opened.
Are you Rubio's dad? Yes. That P is silent. Yes it is. Sycho is when you make garbage new. You mean recycle. My name starts with an S. I see. Sadie Jillanne Killarney Wiggins. Great. A bicycle goes fast and everyone is fast and the track is superfast and they win. Right okay, let's hold onto all those great ideas I'll do the poem and we'll ask questions later—I dived right in without waiting.
Performing with that word as my backdrop is the story of my life. The class visit was great. My wife was able to be there. Our energy, a cycle in revolution. A gyre to remind us, to bring us back before our child. The poems I would revisit today were poems she and I knew—our alphabet. Was there ever a before? How could we have thought that we were complete, traveling through Morrocco, so many years before? Of course he was always there. Hovering overhead. Pointing to now. Right now. And whatever nows wait.
I looked at her halfway through my presentation. Sitting there, earth beauty. In a moment of desperation, after performing a quiet one as opposed to the more fun silly ones, I mouthed-out, "should I do the one about the moon now?" Not being a lip reader, she gave me a wide-eyed look of, I have no idea what you're asking but you better do something fun.
Which is when I climbed into my larger-than-life pocket to then emerge as a living poem. Again, a metaphor of what I hope to accomplish at every reading—to climb out of my poems, with the world as my backdrop.
A self-proclaimed “lingualisualist” rooted in the languages of sight and sound, Edwin Torres was born in the Bronx and is a longtime resident of New York City. He is a poet whose highly acclaimed performances and live shows combine vocal and physical improvisation and theater. He is the author of...