at the end, something about God

Poetry_Friday_Button_2-210 REDUCED    Given that this past Sunday was Grandparents Day, I knew there was only one story to tell; one poem to share in celebration of this week’s Poetry Friday….

Rewind to this past April…Without feeling any modicum of gratitude (no, quite the opposite!), thanks to the scheduling demands of the PARCC exam, our elementary school was forced to abandon its traditional full-day’s Poem in Your Pocket Day festivities, in favor of a majorly scaled-back version.

Disappointed and frustrated that for weeks PARCC testing had been robbing us of so much instructional time, and knowing what Poem in Your Pocket Day had been in the past and could have been that day if not for the PARCC exam, I was feeling rather glum on Poem in Your Pocket Day morning, when the first students came to the library bearing books that needed returning.

“My grandma gave me a poem for my pocket,” a little first grader announced, absolutely glowing.

“That’s so nice,” I replied. “I hope you thanked her.”

Nod.

I continued…“Your grandma knew that she didn’t ‘have’ to give you a poem, right?” …Without waiting for a response…”She knew you would get a poem from your teacher—just like last year, right?”

“She knew. She said she just wanted me to have her poem in my pocket when I walked to school… ”

Then, her ebullience dimmed. “Somewhere along the way I lost it.”

“Oh, that is too bad,” I commiserated. “Do you know what it was about?”

“Uh-huh. A man who writes poems,” she readily told me. “…And a tree.”

I smiled, memory going into overdrive, racing through the opening words I had long ago learned by heart; truthfully, the only words I could think of having to do with a tree and a male poet. (Shame on me! I had forgotten about the Giving Tree. Good thing that wasn’t the poem she was missing.)

As dramatically as I could muster first thing in the morning, I recited:

“I think that I shall never see a poem [as] lovely as a tree.”

“Yes! That’s it,” she said. “. ..And there’s something about God at the end.”

Ceremoniously, I responded:

“Poems are made by fools like me[. ]But only God can make a tree.”

“How did you know?” she asked me, incredulously, expecting, I thought, for me to explain that I had magical powers to read the poem that she had carried in her pocket as she walked to school.

Rather, “I learned that poem a long time ago–when I was your age,” I said.

Books having been returned, and self-disclosure over, the little first grader turned to go.

“Wait!” I said.

Quickly, I found, printed out, and trimmed the extra white space from a hard copy of the online version of the poem whose first and last lines we had shared.

“Here.” I said, “It’s the poem your grandma gave you.”

After a full-smile look and “Thank you,” the little first grader checked the words (though I doubted she could read many of them), and then, with the joy of victory on her face, slipped the paper with those treasured words to Joyce Kilmer’s Trees safely into her pocket.

When she left, I felt glad I had been able to give her the words to the poem her grandma had wanted her to have in her pocket.  At the same time, I felt sorry that the best I could do was a printout. Surely her grandma had printed those words for her—in her own handwriting. My printout was better than nothing, but certainly it was not a replacement, but at least, decidedly, a poor substitute.

The interaction had clearly changed my mood. If nothing else happened that day, Poem in Your Pocket Day had been an amazingly gratifying success. A little girl had proudly walked to school carrying in her pocket a poem that her grandma had chosen for her; a poem her grandma had written out for her, a poem composed by a man about a tree; a poem that ended with something about God.

And how I wished that grandma were in school, standing in front of me, so that I could move out from behind the circulation desk. How I wished I could embrace her; thank her; compliment her.

What a gift she had given her little grandbaby—a gift of loving poetry, of being personally, inextricably connected with poetry in a way that no amount of full-day Poem in Your Pocket Day events could have compared with or exceeded.  …In a way, I was certain, that would forever outlive one particular Poem in Your Pocket Day.

And although I’ll never know for sure why the grandma picked that poem, I couldn’t help wondering and speculating. Had she been required to memorize it (as I had been) when she was a child? Was it her all-time favorite poem? (Can’t say it’s mine.)

It didn’t take long for me to come to the conclusion that this gutsy grandma had wanted her grandbaby’s pocket filled with words that the public school likely would not give her. Words about God. Words I’m sure this loving grandma hoped would fill not only her grandbaby’s pocket, but her mind and her heart.

Imagine! Five years of Poem in Your Pocket Day festivities and never before had I heard of a family sending a child to school with a poem. Maybe they had, and I just did not know. If that is the case, then, sorry as I am for the child, I am grateful and glad that she lost the poem her grandma had written for her.

What a blessed memory I have, thanks to that little grandbaby and her grandma.

When I printed out the hard copy of Joyce Kilmer’s poem for the little girl, I printed out a copy for myself.

And like picking up on a conversation with an old friend, I recited those words to myself, wishing my Grandmother once had written them for me, a copy I could carry in my pocket all day every day–if only no more than the last two lines.

“Poems are made by fools like me[. ]But only God can make a tree.”

God bless poets. And God bless Grandma’s.

                             Trees
………………..Joyce Kilmer………………

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

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14 responses to “at the end, something about God

  1. Absolutely precious!!!! Thanks so much for sharing this.

  2. I read my granddaughters poems often, and now that you’ve reminded me, I’ll be sure to have one ready for Poem In Your Pocket day! Beautiful story, and how wonderful that you kept the conversation going and helped find the poem. It is a lovely one, isn’t it?

    • It is! And your idea is lovely, too! You know, more than one child confided to having “posted” on their bedroom wall the poem received on PIYP Day! Many, too, quite on their own, memorized them. Who says kids don’t love (or can’t learn to love) poetry.!.. .Your granddaughters, I’m sure, will be very Graced by lovely poetry, thanks to you. God bless you–and them!

  3. Thanks for sharing that sweet story!
    I hope your school is able to have its regular PIYP festivities next April.

    • Thank you for taking time to read and share your kind thoughts. I very much enjoyed the poem you posted your blogspot. (Have to figure out how to follow.) Was reading “Gifts from the Sea” earlier today and left off with Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s reflection on a “moon shell.” Was happy to read about the invitation to live with “a full moon in each eye” Thanks so much!

  4. Such a sweet story! I have one quibble, however. In the little girl’s eyes, I doubt sincerely that your printout was a “poor substitute.” Sounds to me it was just what was needed and that, on some level, you and Grandma were in cahoots. 😉

    • Thank you!!!! …and besides your taking time to read and offer such an affirming “quibble,” thank you for tolerating the three attempts I made to embed a live link. (I guess it was okay that none of the links was hot.) Thank you, too, for your very warm PF Roundup introduction to the Grandparents Day story/poem and the Me poem. Thank you! It’s an exceeding blessing to be among “real”–polished, published, sophisticated poets and to be accepted, nonetheless. I appreciate everyone’s humility and forbearance in reading my posts. In comparison, I’m not even a lightweight, but I selfishly trust that my weekly reading of everyone else’s PF will help me to grow/improve. With the very busy role you’ve had this week, I am very humbled & grateful that you took time to reach out to me. God bless you!

  5. What a lovely story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    I have a great fondness for this poem. I heard it as a song when I was young and then learned it as a choral piece in high school, so I don’t recite it, I sing it!

    Here’s one of my favorite versions. It’s the one my parents used to play.

    • I am speechless. What an amazing rendition; sounds straight from a Broadway performance. Music speaks to me so powerfully; I’m sorry I’ve never before heard a sung version. …All the more reason to thank you so much for gifting me with the YouTube link. I’ve listened & listened. Lucky you to have heard this poem sung at home and then to have experienced it as a choral piece in h.s. Now, more than ever, I’m glad that the narrative context into which I placed this sacred poem struck you as lovely. Thank you SO MUCH for taking time to share about your relationship with the poem and for allowing me to enter into that personal space with a small auditory listen. …I learned something, too, from the little pop-up snippets of information that appeared on the screen. Feel bad I didn’t read about Kilmer’s life in connection with the post. If I once knew, I totally had forgotten the circumstances of his death. So sad. No telling what other beautiful poems he might have given. Speaking of giving, I wish there were some YouTube video I could share in return to “repay” you–but I have nothing to offer. So, most sincerely, please accept my thank you! God bless you! p.s. For all those PF folks who love Trees, is there a way of sharing with them the YouTube link, too? (Or maybe they already know about it!)

  6. What a sweet story. Thanks for sharing it. You’re inspiring me to be more outspoken about my love of poetry with my grandkids. I’m surely going to follow that grandma’s example and supply a poem if I’m ever around my grandkids when it’s poem-in-your-pocket day!

    • Bless you for taking time to read and to share your reactions. You’re reminding me to do likewise, too. First PIYP Day I facilitated at school, I mailed my grandchildren poems…Novelty (for me) wore off. Haven’t done it since. I even came across a poetry anthology this morning that I had bought a couple of years ago with my granddaughter in mind–not to give her the book, but to use it as a source of poems to share with her via snail mail. Did I ever do it? Sadly: no. (She was too young for email then.) But reading your comment tells me it’s never too late to follow through on what was–and still is–a good idea. Thank you!!!! After hopefully encouraging other people’s grandchildren to love poetry, it would be a shame, indeed, if we didn’t share our love of poetry with our own. Yes! You are right. We must love poetry more openly for them. God bless you. Thank you!

  7. Such a nice story! Thanks for sharing it!

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