I like to play with my poems the way I play with my daughters.
We invent elaborate games with ever-shifting rules. We treat familiar objects as if they were not familiar. When we wrestle, it almost looks like we’re dancing.
The problem, though, is that other poems – poems I’ve never even read before – love to run over and join in on the fun, start trying to grab my thumb or pull the glasses off my face and before I know it I’m surrounded by a pack of little rough drafts all wanting to play slappy-slappy.
Vonnegut wrote his master’s thesis on his theory that all stories could be graphed by computers – with good- and ill-fortune on the y-axis and time on the x-axis.
He believed novels were ultimately about how characters get into and out of trouble and that plots – no matter how varied their premises – could be represented by a mere handful of simple shapes.
When I first started telling friends that my wife and I were pregnant with our older daughter, my wife would shoot me a look to remind me that only one of us, technically, was pregnant.
So I can’t help but feel the pettiest of joys in the fact that my four-year-old happens to believe that while her older sister was born in the most conventional of ways (uterus, birth canal), she somehow managed to emerge out of my stomach.
For a long time, whenever I would drop my older daughter off at a birthday party, she would cling to my leg and beg me to stay, promise me half her slice of cake if I promised not to leave.
Then one day I brought her to a classmate’s party and before I knew it she was off running around with her friends without even waving goodbye – and I just stood there, with a dull, nameless pang rooting around in my chest.
My daughters have been obsessed lately with the soundtrack to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
And though I’ve grown tired of it looping endlessly on repeat, the English teacher in me loves to sing along whenever the narrator croons to young Joseph: If you can interpret you will go far. If you can interpret you’ll be a star.