Love that dog… and that boy

Love That Dog

Love That Dog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My Jack loves to read; always has. Last night he shared with me his latest ‘favorite’ story, a delightful little book called Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. It is, appropriately, the story of a boy named Jack, his dog, his teacher, and – eventually – his words. Creech describes it like this:

The story develops through Jack’s responses to his teacher, Miss Stretchberry, over the course of a school year. At first, his responses are short and cranky: “I don’t want to” and “I tried. Can’t do it. Brain’s empty.” But as his teacher feeds him inspiration, Jack finds that he has a lot to say and he finds ways to say it.

Jack is both stubborn and warm-hearted, and he can be both serious and funny. Although he hates poetry at first, he begins to find poems that inspire him. All year long, he is trying to find a way to talk about his beloved dog, Sky, and the poems his teacher offers him eventually give him a way to do that.

In the book, Jack becomes especially enamored by the poem “Love That Boy” written by Walter Dean Myers. Ultimately, it is this work that inspires Jack to tell the whole story of his dog, Sky.

When I walked in the door last night, Jack’s first request was for the sequel to Love That Dog, the appropriately-named Hate That Cat.

I love that Jack loves to read. I’ll be absolutely thrilled when he decides he also wants to write.

Here is “Love That Boy” in full:

Love that boy,
like a rabbit loves to run
I said I love that boy
like a rabbit loves to run
Love to call him in the morning
love to call him
“Hey there, son!”

He walk like his Grandpa,
Grins like his Uncle Ben.
I said he walk like his Grandpa,
And grins like his Uncle Ben.
Grins when he’s happy,
When he sad, he grins again.

His mama like to hold him,
Like to feed him cherry pie.
I said his mama like to hold him.
Like to feed him that cherry pie.
She can have him now,
I’ll get him by and by

He got long roads to walk down
Before the setting sun.
I said he got a long, long road to walk down
Before the setting sun.
He’ll be a long stride walker,
And a good man before he done.
Walter Dean Myers

On the Phone by Michael Milburn

That whooshing, watery,
radio-being-tuned sound
tells me he’s outdoors
on his way somewhere
and I’d better talk fast.
I can’t remember
the last time I phoned him
without dreading that countdown
to when he says, “I’m going
into the subway, Dad, got to go.”
Lately, he even calls me from the street—
a convenient way to keep
his keeping in touch short. He’s right—
I’d talk to him for an hour,
marching through my pent-up questions.
It tires me, wanting him so much,
the resistance with which he responds.
I bet there’s a girl out there
he’d duck into a lobby
to keep speaking to
as long as she desired. Instead,
he tells me that I’m breaking up,
and there’s a sound
as if he’s dropped the phone
into a rushing river, which then
pulls him in too, his life.

“On the Phone” by Michael Milburn, from Drive By Heart. © Word Press, 2009.

"Whose woods these are I think I know…"

It was on this day in 1923 that Frost’s poem titled “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” was published. Frost thought it his best work and his best “bid for remembrance” and noted that the first two lines “contain everything I ever knew about how to write.”

“Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the village, though;”

Like many instances of brilliance, this one came in a flash. After working through the night at his kitchen table on a poem called “New Hampshire,” he looked up to notice that night had passed. He walked outside on a warm June morning and, while watching the sun rise, had the idea for “Stopping by Woods.” He went back inside, sat down, and wrote the entire poem barely lifting the pen from the paper. He later said that it was “as if I’d had a hallucination.”

He was probably right. It’s arguably the most well-known poem he ever wrote and certainly a great “bid for remembrance.” Also happens to be one of my favorites.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Neighbors Still

I stand at the open door,
one child – exhausted – with her head on my shoulder
another burning energy and adrenaline
by endlessly circling my legs
like a kite whose string has been cut.

It’s late.
We’ve stayed too long, had too much fun,
and we all know we’ll pay for it in some measure in the morning,
but this is the very definition
of the long goodbye.

These are not “wave from the door friends”
they are “walk you all the way ‘til the sidewalk ends” friends,
and so we stand at the car, only slightly awkward,
offering hugs and thanks and promises to do this more often.

And we pause before leaving
grasping at the tenuous bonds of friendship
knowing our attention will only become more diverted over time
and these times together will certainly become more rare.

Yet they are precise, nearly priceless moments of perfection
where we strike a careful balance
between reminiscing about the past
and marveling at the future.

So even though six large men and a moving truck
have scrambled our zip codes,
we linger and we promise and we hope
because we are – after all – friends, family, and neighbors still.

Forgiveness by Alice Walker

I came across this a couple of days ago and was so struck by the first stanza… I just had to share it.

Looking down into my father’s
dead face
for the last time,
my mother said without
tears, without smiles,
without regrets,
but with civility
“Goodnight, Willie Lee, I’ll see you
in the morning.”

And it was then I knew that the healing
of all our wounds
is forgiveness
that permits a promise of our return
at the end.