Monday, April 12, 2010

Kathi Appelt - The Ouija

The Ouija
Kathi Appelt

It scared the bejesus out of us
two at thirteen, no former
experience with spirits,
especially ones who had
such a command of spelling.

Words like ramose,
which look simple on the page,
but when you have to spell
it goes right out of your head,
even if you ask for the definition--
“having many branches.”

Our arms were like that,
our fingers thin buds
on the edge of its
round, plastic eye.

One of us asked when
the other would die, and when it
gave an actual date,
she blanched, and ran
to the toilet, knelt
down in front of it
and begged for mercy.

I can’t remember which
of us was sentenced, only
that we loved each other so
it didn’t matter. One death
would have meant two.

© 2010 Kathi Appelt. All rights reserved.

Kathi Appelt has written many beloved picture books for younger readers and a novel, The Underneath, which was a Newbery Honor Book and finalist for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. She also teaches, writes non-fiction and, clearly, writes poetry (and while I mean stand-alone poems in this case, I'd argue that if she were in charge of the phone book, it would read as a poem, too). Her next novel, Keeper, is due out in May. Excited, anyone (ya know, besides ME)?

Her ability to convey so much with amazing turns of phrase and images (just look at the last six words of The Ouija, for example) is something that I study as a writer and love as a reader AND read-alouder. In fact, if you've never shared her books aloud, you're really missing out, so get thee hence and do so. In case it's not clear, I'm a fan... and I'm so excited to have Kathi Appelt here as part of 30 Poets/30 Days.

Yesterday gave us I Love Being Me by Charles Waters. Tomorrow, The Big Snore from Kurt Cyrus! For more on 30 Poets/30 Days and ways to follow along, please click here.


tanita✿davis said...

Wow, I love poems that tell such a compelling and complete story -- and I have to say I would have been under the bed somewhere during this episode. SPOOKY.

laurasalas said...

Kathi's poetry is so wonderful! The sly humor (who had/such a command of spelling), the metaphors (our fingers/thin buds/on the edge of its/round, plastic eye), and the visceral emotion (that ending!). Thanks for sharing this one...

Anonymous said...

Oh, I have to send a link to this to all my friends from high school. We were ever and always wishing for a ouiji board, but none of our parents would get us one.

On second thought, maybe I should email the link to our parents.

Carol Grannick said...

Oh, my - this feels like a perfect poem to me...engaging me with memory, pulling me along into the friendship, then wrenching my heart at the end. I feel so lucky to be going to an Illinois conference this summer where Kathi will lend her expertise and vision.

Marilyn Singer said...

Kathi, I LOVE this poem! Love, love, love it! Very evocative!

Doret said...

Beautiful. This poem is clinic good. Love it.

Julie said...

I'm bringing a ouija board the next time I see you, Kathi - maybe we'll ask it something a little more upbeat?

Love the poem.

David LaRochelle said...

This poem brought back all the fears I had growing up of the Ouiji board my mom had in her bedroom closet...I was even afraid of the mysterious-looking box that it came in. What a powerful piece of writing.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE THIS POEM it is so cool,and I say that because I played The Ouija board whit my friends at a sleepover. It was fun and scary at the same time.

Deborah Desser-Herchan said...

The last line of this poem defines friendship on a level seldom seen, and in a literary manner unmatchable. Bravo.