Today I celebrate language.
Let me begin with the fox.
Last Friday I arrived at a hotel ballroom for a breakfast buffet in honor of educators and volunteers who had read aloud to children throughout the year. We had concluded a program built on developing positive relationships and instilling a love for reading in the kids.
There at a table, greeting folks upon arrival, sat the fox.
The Poetry Fox, to be precise.
A guy in a furry fox suit, typing away on an old-timey typewriter.
Turns out that if you gave the Poetry Fox a word, he would type a poem for you on the spot.
I nearly forgot the breakfast altogether; I had to stand in line for a poem.
Two women in front of me gave him the words daughter and twins (who are leaving the nest to go to college). Within two or three minutes, Poetry Fox tapped out each poem, stamped his “official” seal on the pages, and read them their poems.
I can hardly describe the looks on these women’s faces. Radiant. Smiling, slightly open-mouthed. Eyes wide, misting. The air about them even seemed to glow…
“It’s National Poetry Month,” I said to the Fox.
“Indeed!” he replied with glee.
“As I love reading and writing poetry… that is the word I give you. Poetry.”
“Wow, no one’s ever asked me to write about the word poetry before,” said Poetry Fox. “I get creativity and inspiration but not poetry…okay, let’s go!”
He rolled a sheet of paper in the old typewriter and pecked away.
Here’s the poem:
In a word: awe. It’s my life-word anyway… those last lines, especially.
the only language
The glow of this poem, and the wonder of the Poetry Fox whipping it out on the spot, stayed with me for the remainder of the day…to be honest, it hasn’t left yet.
Early the next morning I was still thinking about poetry being the only language that ever means anything when the sound of loud, melodic chirping echoed through the house. The finches nesting in my door wreath, feeding the hungry babies. In the beginning, before their eyes are open, the babies sense a presence and open their mouths in silent cries for food. They do not yet have voices. They do now. They chorus like tiny Oliver Twists: Food, glorious food! We’re anxious to try it…three banquets a day, our favourite diet! Except that they consume more than three banquets a day; Mama and Papa work hard to keep the babies fed.
I decided to chance a photo when the parents were out fetching… when I neared, speaking quietly so they could hear me coming, the babies fell silent at once. They do not know what I am, but they know I am not Mama or Papa with food and instinct tells them don’t make a sound.
I am happy to report that all are presently doing well (you can see all five baby beaks here):
The baby finches deepen my awe of language and poetry. They are language and poetry to me, with their musical chatter and even in the cessation of it. So tiny and new, but so infinitely wise.
Which brings me to my granddaughter, age eighteen months.
She came that afternoon to stay with my husband and me. We marvel at the new words she’s acquiring every single day, how she studies our faces for responses, how she mimics actions. She now says Grampa quite clearly, to my husband’s utter delight. I’ve tried and tried to get her to say Franna, but she only grins; is she teasing?
But on this afternoon, she stopped playing with her favorite musical toy to walk over to him where he sat in the recliner. Looking up at him, she patted his hand with her tiny one.
Grampa, she said. Grampa.
It was a holy moment. I don’t know how else to say it. She was naming him, claiming him. A sacred act. My eyes welled.
And before I knew it, she was standing before me where I sat on the couch, looking at up me with gleaming brown eyes.
She patted my hand.
Franna, she said.
The only language that ever means anything.
with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the weekly Slice of Life writing share
and Lionel Bart for the song “Food, Glorious Food” in the Broadway musical Oliver!
and Poetry Fox
and the finches
and my beautiful Micah