I’m a nudge too.

My blograde at TONE DEAF has been memorializing his late friend Joe by posting scraps of verse. Poetry taken at random from an anthology, set forth for consideration and dissection. Robbie is a tremendous writer and a generous friend, and I want to cite a poem that seems brilliant enough to honer the writer’s writer. Truth is for the reader to decide.


Rose Foster (age 8)


A balloon once lived for a month
and a little bit more
until Daddy accidentally murdered him.
But he is still in our hearts.
He was brave to be pushed in the air.
I remember when he made
a little girl laugh so hard
that she screamed.
And this is true.
He traveled with me upstairs
and downstairs. His final trip was upstairs.
I wish I could tell you all the adventures
but the last adventure
you can see
ends here in this chilly sandbox
with sandwiches.
You may eat them.

from 2014 Rattle Young Poets Anthology

2 responses to this post.

  1. Joe would have liked this. But before we consider and dissect I must, alas, assume my default state. Forty-four years of journalism taught me to be suspicious. Was this verse written by an eight-year-old? Now I don’t suspect the observations (although they’re very good) nor the tautness of the writing (which would be worthy of anyone). It’s the structure that worries me. The way things are arranged:

    I remember when he made
    a small girl laugh so hard
    that she screamed.

    And this is true.

    Three lines, each standalone poetical. Then a space before the fourth line. A knowing mind at work there. A precocious child may have put the words together but an experienced someone set them in space. Does it matter? Not really since the poem is good by any standards. But I needed to register my Press badge.

    For a start, it’s good because it’s simple. If you are adult and if you have tried your hand you’ll know what I mean. An adult who has read a bit, and written a bit of prose is overloaded with layers of words, phrases and idiom. There’s a temptation to use all of them in one go. This leads to long sentences barely under control, an over-dependence on adverbs and adjectives, and an excess of figures-of-speech (especially similes) which go on and on. I’ve never met anyone who taught poetry writing but I know what his or her first rule should be: imagine you’re writing a cable with words at five dollars each, double for those with three or more syllables.

    I spoke about tautness so consider that first line: A balloon once lived for a month. “Lived” is important since the balloon later gets murdered. It’s also concise (vs. let’s say: stayed blown up). “Once” may be short for “once upon a time” so we’re in for a story. But here’s the master stroke: “and a little bit more” which says this is a story told by a child. Children by definition have only lived a short while and tend to be finicky when expressing periods of time.

    There’s a lot more. But note “adventure(s)” repeated on consecutive lines. Only confident good writers dare to repeat close words; inferior writers look for synonyms.

    The final line is also masterly: again, a child speaks.

    One misgiving is “chilly”. The choice of word (vs. say, “cold”) seems adult. If it isn’t straightforward descriptive then it’s “literary” (ie, making one word do the work of two) and this resurrects suspicions. If it is straightforward descriptive how are we to know (presumably from a picture) that it is appropriate? Finally, a rather advanced consideration: “chilly” seems to overbalance the line making the sandbox more important than, I suspect, it is.

    But never mind “chilly”. The rest is excellent. An object lesson in how a commonplace series of events can be converted into something deeply satisfying.


  2. I have similar doubts, I’d hoped the last line of my introduction hinted at those feelings. “Eulogy”, the first word in the title, is pretty uncommon in the vocabulary of an eight year old. “accidental murder” sounds childishly naive, or profoundly interesting. The whole thing begs for allegorical interpretation – the relationship, day in/day out…the ups and downs…and of course death, the grave, (the “chilly sandbox”). Sandwiches in the chilly sandbox…you may eat them. An adult reference to biblical promises, or Psalm 8:2, manifest?

    Perhaps a Mozart here, perhaps a disordered adult who submits poems to children’s poetry venues. Or maybe, as you say, a collaboration. I thought you’d recognize it as vivid, happy to hear that Joe would approve.


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