Today I have for you an original poem. Last month I attended My Favorite Poem, a community poetry reading here in Birmingham in which folks share their favorite poem and why it's important to their lives. One high school student shared "When the World Was Ten Years Old He Fell Deep in Love with Egypt" by Patricia Lockwood -- and I fell in love with using the world as a way to write a poem. The very next day I wrote this poem about our 15 year old son who is the world and our youngest son and who has already passed his driving test and is waiting for The Day to arrive when he can officially drive off into the sunset... without his mother beside him.
When the World Learned to Drive (for Eric)
- after Patricia Lockwood
When the world learned to drive
he started on back roads, trim
neighborhood streets, his eyes
watchful for trash cans and cats.
At first his foot came down hard,
his hands slick against the wheel,
right turn right turn right turn
until he was thank God, back home.
When the world learned to drive,
he grinned at stop signs,
their bold-print and eager faces
familiar as his reflection,
and equally as maddening –
until he learned the feather-art
of rubber sole easy-easy
against rubber pedal.
When the world learned to drive
he couldn't wait to take the interstate.
He dreamed of long ramps
and fast, smooth mergings,
was unruffled by the whoosh
of semi trucks or the red Mustang
rushing his back bumper.
The world simply thumbed the wheel
and adjusted his rearview mirror.
And then there was no stopping him:
he craved city traffic, stop-and-go,
cloverleafs and flyovers.
His faith steamed like asphalt
after a summer shower, he studied
maps for sinkholes and mountains,
strapped himself in and didn't look back.
Not soon enough he learned
to navigate Highway 280,
it's ant-lines and zipper lines and no lines
a language he could understand:
hip-hop lyrics, piano, drumbeat –
with a little reggae thrown in.
To celebrate, the world bought
four pair of sunglasses,
kept both hands on the wheel.
Didn't text while driving, or eat,
or cry, though sometimes the sunset
was so beautiful he had to clear his throat.
The world was a good listener,
had always been a good listener.
He believed each yellow light
was a message from God –
sometimes, Hold On, sometimes, Let Go.
He knew and his mother knew
and every song he would ever write knew
that there was a road
somewhere with his name on it,
and if there wasn't, the world would build it.
- Irene Latham
This needs to come with a tissue warning, Irene! Beautiful.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Tabatha... there's just something about the last one... xoDelete
Wow, Irene, Tabatha is right, you've taken me back to that sweet time, the cusp of the world. And teary as I read, but I'm happy for the memory.ReplyDelete
Yes, Linda, the cusp of the world! Thank you for reading, and for remembering. xoDelete
All of the details in the third stanza swept me away and back to my own first car (a rickety black Mustang).ReplyDelete
Fun to think of you driving a Mustang, Laura! xoDelete
O.M.G., Irene. A gorgeous, heart-hugging poem if ever I heard one. If I was your son, I would be so proud to call you my mom. Excited for Monday's celebration!ReplyDelete
Thank you, Michelle. :) If Eric in any way feels the way I have felt the times he's written songs for me, I am one happy mama! Truly, homespun gifts are the BEST. xoDelete
I'm enjoying this poem on so many levels—meaning, language, rhythm and pacing. So beautiful, Irene. I love how you've used the words "the world" here. This is one I'll come back to, for sure. Thank you!ReplyDelete
(Looking forward to stopping by on Monday!)
Thank you, Sheri! I hope you'll share a WILD post!! xoDelete
Wow! This is so beautiful, evocative and heartfelt. The last stanza is a killer!!ReplyDelete
Thanks for reading, Jama. Parenthood is my favorite job ever. xoDelete
Yesterday was the first day that my daughter drove with me in the car (my husband has been teaching her) and so just well, this poem is holding right onto me. So gorgeous, Irene. What a gift you are - to your boys and to all of us. Hug. xx!!ReplyDelete
Oh, wow, we are so often sharing the same things on our parenthood journeys... love it! Thanks for reading. xoDelete
Oh, Irene, this is so lovely. You brought back memories of my own sons. They are grown men now with careers and families of their own, but the memories last forever. Thank you for this touching reminder. xoReplyDelete
Thank you, Linda... truly, it is an honor to be a parent. SO HARD, but wow. Nothing else like it. xoDelete
So beautiful, Irene. You have captured so many nuances of the child and the mother all at once. Really lovely.ReplyDelete
Thank you for reading, Doraine! I so rarely write "about" any of my kids... but the distance The World gave me helped. xoDelete
I just went back and read this again. This time I clicked on the sound cloud and listened to you read it. Let me just say again--So beautiful.Delete
This is a fabulous poem. So many new experiences for me - reading on the other side of the world and not at ALL wanting to drive your interstate. Our freeways are bad enough for country me. That last stanza is beaut, as noted - but I LOVE that last line. The whole poem in a nutshell is in that line.ReplyDelete
Ha, the interstate is a breeze compared to Hwy 280 (highly trafficked 6 lanes of madness!). Thanks so much for your kind words and for reading in the first place!Delete
This is beautiful, Irene, and so full of truth. That last line takes my breath away!ReplyDelete
Aww, thank you so much for reading. xoDelete
Wow! I love the Egypt poem and yours. Wonderful! Looking forward to your anniversary celebrations.ReplyDelete
Yes, Ruth! Thank you. Very excited to experience the WILD-ness. xoDelete
How perfect that your son is simultaneously The World.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Mary Lee! I've also been working on one called When the World Learned to Read -- this particular son has dyslexia, and oh boy, what a journey! xoDelete
Wow, you've captured it all in your poem--"hands slick against the wheel, the "whoosh," the "four pairs of sunglasses," and the "mother." Brava!ReplyDelete
My wild post is up and running and I'll be back tomorrow to add my link.
Fabulous, Diane! SO EXCITED!!! Btw, son really did buy 4 pairs of sunglasses. :)Delete
So, so, beautiful, especially the line: " He believed each yellow lightReplyDelete
was a message from God –sometimes, Hold On, sometimes, Let Go."
I will never look at a yellow light the same way again, Irene.
I have one daughter driving (18) - she was oh so eager at 15/16. My younger daughter is a few years way (12)...for now the world can wait, neither she nor I is ready.
Dear Bridget, yes, the driving thing is a real game changer, isn't it? That's when we really start to lose them. I have such intense memories of that first taste of true freedom -- to get in a car and DRIVE! So, so wonderful! Thank you for reading! xoDelete
What a poem, Irene! I can't think of a better gift to give Eric than birthing him into the world, and watching him drive off, on his way, no stopping him.ReplyDelete