Yesterday I went to have a hearing checkup. Nothing has changed. I still use my trusty hearing aides when necessary, which isn’t often. I usually forget to take them with me. They should last forever. While sitting in the waiting room and later in the chair where the doctor would examine me, I jotted down twenty-one ideas for poems for a new book I have in mind. Carrying a pocket pad sure has its advantages.
Yesterday Jane Yolen and I finished a new collection of poems and sent it on its way. During the day we got to talking about the Scottish brogue and that brought back memories of when I was a child in Ajo, Arizona. My dad worked in the payroll department for Phelps Dodge Mining Corporation and one of his associates was a Scott named Harry Poole. The two couples got together from time to time and that was fine with me. I was six or so and I loved to listen to that man talk. He had grown up in the old country and could tell story after story about what it was like when he was a young man. When Mr. Poole retired, he and his wife moved to California. I only saw him one time after that, when we took a trip that way and stopped in for a visit. Their retirement bungalow was cozy with a small living room and kitchen. I don’t remember the bedroom. There was a white crocheted doily draped across the back of the brown sofa. Mr. Poole sat in his favorite chair beside the sofa. This is what I remember.
After the greetings and everyone was settled, Mr. Poole tamped fresh tobacco into his pipe, lighted it, took a few trial puffs, then looked off into the past while my dad and I waited. We were about to be treated to another of Mr. Poole’s stories. I could hear the women in the kitchen, catching up over tea. Mr. Poole said, “When I was a boy, twelve, thirteen, my father sent me to work at a saw mill. The family needed the extra money. A puff or two. The mill was a dangerous place. Lots of noise. No safety features. Accidents were commonplace.” I don’t remember if my dad was smoking a cigar but he was awake so he probably was. Mr. Poole went on, “One day a lad got careless and ran a log too close to the blade. Took his finger off.” The old man’s eyes began to smile. “The lad wrapped a rag around the stump,” he said, “then he slipped up behind the fellow at the next saw and dropped his finger down the back of his coveralls. You should have seen that lad carrying on when he eventually fished the finger out and saw what it was!” I don’t remember if I laughed or gasped. Mr. Poole obviously thought it was a funny story. He closed his eyes as if fact checking. Satisfied, he nodded, opened his eyes, and went to his pipe again, leaving a comfortable silence to drift around the room.
How accurate is this memory? I like to think it’s close to the way it happened. Whether it is or not, who is to say? It’s my memory and has lived in my mind as clearly as a video for nearly seventy-five years. Telling the past is an important part of what writers do.
Yesterday I attended the final meeting of Reading Roundup, a group that has raised tens of thousands of books for Springfield Public School Libraries over the past eighteen years. We used the last of our funds to support as many librarian requests as we could, said our goodbyes, and that was it. For me it’s the end of thirty-five years of volunteering that has involved a multitude of causes, most of which have been literacy related. The only board I’m still on is the Highlights Foundation.
On a brighter front, Macmillan in India sent me a permission request for a poem of mine called “The Secret.” I was embarrassed that I couldn’t recall writing a poem with that name. I remembered one called “The Purchase of Small Secrets” (from the book of the same name, BMP, 1998) and a story called “The Little Boy’s Secret” (from The Book of Giant Stories, American Heritage Press/McGraw Hill, 1972), but drew a blank of the one requested. I had to ask for the source or first lines. Turns out the poem they like appeared in The Mouse was Out at Recess (BMP, 2003). Last time I was reprinted in India (different publisher), I was paid in rupees so I suppose I’m in for something like that again. Anyway, the poem will appear in a textbook for English readers with a first print run of 10,000 copies.
First day home and back in the wheel went pretty well. I overslept by forty-minutes so I got a big fat black mark for that stunt, but the rest of the morning went okay and some of the afternoon was okay too. Not a lot to report otherwise.
For those of you who went to Laura and Evan Robb’s site to read my post on their blog, “Why Poetry?” thank you. I have an interview coming out, next month I think, in Colorado. Nothing much else for a while. Well, that’s wrong. In the mail was my July copy of “Language Arts” and the entire issue is about poetry.
An article by Sylvia Vardell and an interview of Rebecca Davis caught my eye right away. I haven’t had a chance to read it cover to cover yet but plan to. This one also lists the NCTE picks for 2016 Notable Children’s Poetry Books. I was happy to see NOW YOU SEE THEM, NOW YOU DON’T as one of the featured titles, along with books by Joyce Sidman, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Judith Viorst, Marilyn Singer, Carole Boston Weatherford, and others.