Friday, July 13, 2012

bedecked with text

I love summer.  Is it because I'm a hot-weather person with a penchant for peaches, or is it because at this time of year I can luxuriate in the literacy activities that form the core of my being?  I love school-times too, but there are so many constraints on what I can read and write then.  Still, something is shifting, and not just because I'm not working (working for The Man, that is, whoever he may be).

I know because this week I've been reading not one but TWO works of contemporary adult fiction.  I mean actually reading my way through them, not just carrying a book to the pool and in the car and to the beach but reading the same second chapter over and over again without making progress (this was the fate of both Loving Frank last year and The Elegance of the Hedgehog the year before).  I seem to be able suddenly to give myself up to a book like I used to, in the days when I lived mainly to get back to any of the several books I was reading at any given time.

[Around about Monday Daisy asked, "What are you reading now, Mommy?"  "Upstairs I'm reading An American Wife and downstairs I'm reading Room."  "Good for you!" she exclaimed, as though I'd happened upon a uncommon but to-be-recommended practice.  "I do that but my friends don't get it."  Little does she know that I invented that practice, not she, but that was back when.....when I was 13 too.  : )]

This is what else I have had the wide-open pleasure to encounter this week, in the random sort of order which is appropriate to the season:

*The Silver Chair, aloud to Duncan (C.S. Lewis)
*What Color is Your Smoothie?  (Britt Allen Brandon; goes with my new hyperpowered blender)
*my own poems and those of my fabulous new critique group
*An American Wife (Curtis Sittenfeld; having the slightly creepy effect of making me like Dubya)
*Room (Emma Donoghue; finished on Tuesday night and best thing I have read since I can remember)
*IKEA, Crate & Barrel and other online furniture catalogs with my "New House Notebook" alongside
*Chapter 3 of my other critique partner's entertaining middle grade novel
*online documents regarding some shady dealings between our County Executive and our school system on the conversion of an organic farm occupying school land to privately owned soccer fields
*Narrative Magazine (thinking of entering poetry contest)
*Time magazine articles from March and April on The Next 10 Big Ideas and the 100 Most Influential People in the World
*and finally, this poem, which had a similar effect on me to last week's offering.  Its power links to that poem, to Room, and to the process of saying a long goodbye to rooms full of the evidence of younger childhoods.  (That said, only last week Duncan and his friends bedecked themselves with marker lipstick and eyeshadow, dug out wigs and sparkly handbags and videoed themselves acting out a visiting-Santa-at-the-mall skit.  Brave rainbow hearts indeed.)  My dad forwarded it to me.

Bedecked // Victoria Redel (apologies; the formatting is not right, I'm sure)

Tell me it’s wrong the scarlet nails my son sports or the toy

store rings he clusters four jewels to each finger.

He’s bedecked. I see the other mothers looking at the star

choker, the rhinestone strand he fastens over a sock.

Sometimes I help him find sparkle clip-ons when he says

sticker earrings look too fake.

Tell me I should teach him it’s wrong to love the glitter that a

boy’s only a boy who’d love a truck with a remote that revs,

battery slamming into corners or Hot Wheels loop-de-looping

off tracks into the tub.

Then tell me it’s fine—really—maybe even a good thing—a boy

who’s got some girl to him,

and I’m right for the days he wears a pink shirt on the seesaw in

the park.

Tell me what you need to tell me but keep far away from my son

who still loves a beautiful thing not for what it means—

this way or that—but for the way facets set off prisms and

prisms spin up everywhere

and from his own jeweled body he’s cast rainbows—made every

shining true color.

Now try to tell me—man or woman—your heart was ever once

that brave.

Among other places, this poem is published in an anthology called 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day, edited by Billy Collins.  May we be so brave as he.  The round-up today is with Jone at Check It Out


  1. I love it. I loved it when my son's favorite shirt was pink and when he completely ignored the kids who told him he couldn't be a witch for Halloween because witches are girls and he's a boy, and I absolutely loved it when every single day his friend would arrive at school and put on the jeweled and feathered dress-up shoes. Sparkly should be available to everyone.

  2. What's sad is how early this type bravery is squashed... as a mother of three sons it's hard to watch society box them up. It's like anything else though, really... you learn there are safe places to be yourself, and there are also unsafe places. Thanks for sharing your reading list, and yes, ROOM was riveting. I really really loved the first half of the book. Great voice. Happy day to you!

  3. Great poem! Is it on the 180 site? Just wondering if the books and the site completely overlap.

  4. Room is on my TBR pile... my MIL is going to loan me her copy when she is done. I'm not sure I can read something that dark/sad during the summer, though. I tend to read junk-food during the summer.

    My youngest marches to the beat of his own drummer. When he was younger he would wear a tiara, a princess dress, and fireman boots to the grocery store. Even now at 8 he loves to make jewelry and paint his toenails...but I'm starting to see the first instances of peer pressure affecting his choices. He picked out a pink-copper toe nail polish for his last swim meet... but when he got home he asked me to take it off because it was 'too pink'.

  5. Marvelous poem. Speaking as a sparklies- and costume-loving mom of twin boys, I have BIG plans for mom/son dress-up and Carnevale in Venice. Yes, they make powdered wigs for toddlers! :)

    I recently finished ROOM, too, and really loved it.

  6. I am totally with you on summer being a time for real reading. I'm loving that, too!

  7. What a powerful poem - that last stanza took my breath away.

  8. Great poem! And, if you ever need recommendations of adult fiction, let me know!

  9. This one made me tear up - glorious poem, and here's to all those wonderful beauty-loving little boys and their soul-loving parents.

    You've been so busy reading and writing! Here's to you, too. :0)


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