In faithful English teacher fashion, for Michael’s birthday yesterday, his mom wrote him a poem. She was up at 4am Saturday morning anyway, wrote it, and was done by 6:30am (she said). A piece of Word doc taped into the card whose commercial printed sentiment read: Happy Birthday tough guy. It was a lyric poem dressed up with rhyme that Michael read aloud to us (his family), each word enunciated with mock (“These landmarks are very confusing – a birthday, a wedding, teams losing / They sometimes are sad / And sometimes are glad / And often they robe you of snoozing”) was clue enough to his grandmother to keep reaching into her bag of murmured “Madonna mias” after each stanza’s rest, if not before.
“How do you spell rob?” he asked his mother.
“R-o-b,” she answered.
“Because you wrote ‘robe,’” he said, reaching across me to kiss her hand.
We sat and laughed at her ode – a piece of writing that probably sounds easy to compose (once it is composed) but I secretly know how that verse goes. I used to write so much poetry. Or as I labeled it in my twenties, poetic prose, because I didn’t take enough poetry courses in college to feed my confidence, or knowledge for it. I always wrote out of a combination of needing to write so that I could feel justified in a deep well of juvenile-turned-adult feelings, and to keep hold of my life and remember the details because whew! I’ve hung around in a lot of smoke. I also wrote to provide myself with a practiced script of sense, not necessarily for the listening ear, but for my love of clarity and brain-tease. (I will sooner try to write something than attempt a math riddle.) I know I’m not alone when I acknowledge that writing is hard. Writing something that you like is even harder. Someone I used to know once told me my writing was lazy, that my snippets of language were teasers of something better and that I was too afraid, too indolent, to move them into something larger. At once offended and found out, I knew this was why I did my best to avoid poetry workshops and writing groups; criticism felt like an unleashed beast I never had the spirit to wrestle. (Still working on mustering that spirit. Any advice?)
I loved Michael’s mom’s poem. I love that she wrote it so early in the morning on the day of the birthday and I love that she printed it out without proofreading. It gave us something to laugh about. It reminded me of another reason I write: Because it’s fun.