… and now for something completely different
The other day an old friend came over and we sat on the porch and drank beer late into the night.
We were talking about raising kids, the hassle of commuting to work, growing old, friends dying, and after a long sip he asked a question that was half funny, half sad— “Is this all there is?”
Since then, I’ve been turning over his question. A question I believe most of us have asked ourselves, our friends, between laughter, between sips of beer.
So on a slow Saturday morning, with “Is this all there is?” bobbing in my brain– I started writing. Most of the writing was terrible. The nonsensical scribbles of a 40 year old suburban dad, drinking almost cold coffee, and overhearing his kids scream like sugar-filled banshees at the Xbox machine.
But out of these ramblings, surprisingly came, what I think is my first good poem.
Now, poetry and I have always had a good-fences-make-good-neighbors relationship. I like reading poetry, I like reading about writing poetry, but I never felt cordially invited over to write poetry.
And yet I always wanted to be part of the poetry game. But like a runt wearing his father’s ball cap, I felt too small, inadequate, just a kid kicking dirt, doubting my own skills– my ability to finesse verbs and nouns, imagery and details, similes and metaphors with grace, with power like the real sluggers– Angelou, Frost, Shakespeare.
I always felt like the last kid picked in poetry kickball.
But despite batting ninth and playing right field, I wrote a poem called, “What you could be” and I want to share it with you.
I won’t be mad if you stop reading right now. In fact, I understand if you have little use for poetry.
However, selfishly, I want to become the best writer I can be. Work on my weaknesses. Sharpen my skills. Build some writing muscles before beach season. And spin a new world of words– a world that is, hopefully, better than the one we a currently living in (See: 2020).
“A poem”, poet Ted Kooser explained, “is a device through which the ordinary world is seen in a new way–engaging, compelling, even beautiful.”
And I desperately want to see the ordinary world in a new way. I think it’s a must. It’s how you stay spry and sane while riding the flaming turd known as 2020.
Anyway, my poem, “What you could be”– hopefully I wrote a poem you can relate to. Hopefully it’s a clear and accessible unlike some of the poetry you were forced to read by your high school English teacher. : )
Hopefully it gifts you a new way of looking at the world.
However, if the poem serves no use, if you think it’s unskilled and unschooled, if it strikeouts out– remember, I was the last kid picked in poetry kickball.
What You Could Be
Outside my suburban window stands
a grey garden-boy wearing a soccer uniform, a sculpted smile,
left hand holding his hip and under his right arm hangs–
a soccer ball inflated like the moon.
His bold little chin points a finger at the world.
He is knee-high. A grasshopper.
And he watches his garden, stares down squirrels, eyes the brown finches
like an old man who waits—
for life to begin.
And I, with my sore knees and chronic ankles, watch
him through the window and think–
what you could be.
At my parents house. On the living room wall hangs
a picture of me holding the same pose as garden-boy.
As if the sculptor, somehow found himself in my parents living room,
eyeing the frames, mom stirring teas in the kitchen,
dad tinkering a broken fan in the garage and the sculptor,
hands behind his back, finds me small and young inside, under glass
what you could be.
What’d you think? Should I write more poetry? Or should I hang up my cleats? Send me your thoughts– via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or in the comments section below.
Jay Armstrong is a writer, blogger, speaker, and recipient of the Teacher of the Year award in his school district. Diagnosed with a rare neurological disease that resulted in a hole in his brain– Jay presses on. He hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life. For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:
4. Hearing his children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents and a beer with his friends)