Monday, April 26, 2010

Jacqueline Woodson - One of the Many Stories

One of the Many Stories
Jacqueline Woodson

When the puppy in the road was
mine, life didn't stop
for the driver. That evening perhaps
he read his son one of many stories
grownups write for children
about dogs. Perhaps
this one found its way
Home. The End. Then kissed his child
center crown as always, the meat
his wife was roasting, nearly done
by the time the vet pronounced
Bella dead at four months, one half
hour before my daughter, at six, discovered
a new way tomorrow could get here
tears to whimpering then finally sleep
a plastic bone beneath her pillow from this moment on,
safe still from towers burning, a car moving fast
against traffic as the children inside squeal
themselves to death. A pan of oil too close
to an open flame     She Is, I think
safe still from other stories.

Night and the driver
couldn't see a black puppy bolting
Didn't know
that deep in her German Shepherd blood
was a desire for the only story she knew
Let's call it "Home"

so when the door was cracked
she saw the promise of black night
caught scent of her recent journey
thought she knew the way
back to us
One half mile away from where I stood
packing, now pondering black linen shorts
now folding a Mama For Obama t-shirt into my bag
now smiling over our daughter's first
pink bikini as our dogsitters searched and found
our number. Already, our trip
to the Caribbean was becoming another story
of another almost-thing, puppy-blood warm
freezing fast for us into
On the corner of Pacific and Bond that February

©2010 Jacqueline Woodson. All rights reserved.

Jacqueline Woodson has received three (three!) Newbery Honors, the Coretta Scott King Award, been nominated for the National Book Award and been an NBA finalist, ended up on numerous book of the year lists and, most importantly of all, writes picture books and novels that resonate with children (and adults) who read them. No surprise, really - she writes honestly and powerfully about issues and emotions small and large (as her poem here today is testament). There's no manipulation in her work, simply connection.

I love her novel-in-poems Locomotion, but it was with Show Way (illustrated by Hudson Talbott) that I had my own personal "Woodson-epiphany" or something like that. That wonderfully poetic book is autobiographical, about the maternal line in her family. Yet it's so pitch perfect that this white male dad could read it aloud in front of a group of kids and feel completely natural giving voice to the story. It guided me along and kept me totally connected (via family traditions? parent-child issues? loss? All of the above?) despite the differences. To quote the text but turning it about the book itself: "I loved that baby up." Indeed I did (and do). In case it's not clear, I'm a fan... and I'm totally thrilled to have Jacqueline Woodson here as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday, we saw George Ella Lyon's Trying To Get Out of My Tree. Tomorrow... Sounds Delightful by Graham Denton. For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.


Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

chillingly, achingly beautiful.
But it's no surprise, because Jacqueline is a master of words and even the silences between words. I'm a huge fan of "Show Way." It gives me Goosebumps, in the best way. And "We had a picnic this Sunday past" makes me laugh every time. I'm a huge fan, and I'm so delighted that she shared a poem here as part of your celebration!

tanita✿davis said...

A little story of loss, woven in with the other little stories of moments in people's lives -- rolled into a part of the big world's turning. A poem with both heart and perspective; beautifully done.

Laurie L Young said...

I've been reading these each day but have not commented until now (mostly time-strapped, no better excuse.)
Jacqueline Woodson brings me to tears every time she puts pen to paper. I don't know if I could handle even her grocery list. Simple. Beautiful. Absolutely heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...