A number of years ago, after reading Naomi Shihab Nye’s book, A Maze Me, I started creating a collection of poems to try and capture the essence of childhood, of growing up female. I began to remember times where I connected to cousins, friends, and my sister; times with my parents and grandparents; times that were magical and memorable; times I wanted to keep in my heart.
I had the whole book planned out and began to write. Then I let life pull me away and abandoned and then forgot about the whole project. A few days ago, as I went through old projects, I discovered the just-started manuscript. I read through the plan. Some ideas I remember; some ideas are a mystery waiting to be solved.
In each poem, I want to create a snapshot of childhood and how girls navigate in the world. I’m going to take time to think back on what was important to me back then and get new inspiration from my wild-hearted students. I am going to focus on the happy times, the times filled with hope and wonder. My plan is to play with ideas and take delight in watching them form. I’m going to pay attention to the process now and finish the project. Here are the final few originals.
Butterscotch Grandpa’s old house was filled with mystery An attic with a wardrobe of old clothes A basement of cobwebs and quick mice Seven cousins entertain each other for hours Bart, Bill and Chip climb the woodpile out back And dare us girls to do the same. We climb to the top declaring victory Our shouts disturbed a litter of kittens White, black, gray fluff scatters everywhere Cousins leap and chase after them My sister catches the only orange fluff ball And cradles it in her hands She is so small We run to our mother asking to keep her To our great delight the answer is yes! We take her home and keep her warm Feed her warm milk she laps up With her tiny pink sandpaper tongue We name her Butterscotch – A little piece of orange sweetness. Drifting My sister and I drift Down the Navesink River On a rubber rowboat A hot August afternoon The sun peeking in and out Of the clouds that cover the sky Our skin glistening As we lie side by side, The water lap-lap-lapping Against the side of the boat Makes us lazy And we doze. Soft Rain begins to fall, Rings spiral out on the Surface of the river, We are drifting - Two sisters In the summer rain. Free Flight At the beach My father rises early, Brews strong coffee, Scrambles eggs, Packs a breakfast picnic - We walk to the beach, Spread our blanket, Sit together watching the sunrise, Eating our breakfast As seagulls wheel overhead I toss them the last bits of toast They squawk and dive Catching bits in mid-air, We walk to the water’s edge, Chase the sandpipers who dip Their sharp bills in the sand, Scurry on quick legs Faster and faster till they fly Just above the sea. I breathe in the salt air - And I’m free.