Not at all children are poets, but some are.
I remember my four-year old saying, with gravelly complaint and
consternation as we rounded the last lap of tract homes from the
neighborhood park, “It feels like there’s an elephant in my shoe.”
Those days, I was not a poet myself, so I simply took off her shoe
to see what was the matter, what was in there, a rock or a sock?
Neither of those could possibly be the size or weight of an elephant
but I skipped right over the poetry and assumed the play out of it:
She just meant that something was slowing down her gait, some
obstruction that was making her walk like an elephant, and that
full explanation did not even articulate in my mind, just swallowed
up in the patching up holes and problems, as parents are wont to do.
And then those hours of “Mother Goose” nursery rhymes that
pleased and placated my tiny joy-riding song and wordsters who
pleaded, “Again” after we’d go through the entire night’s rhymes read
before bed time, and all I could think was, “What does this mean,
‘hickory dickory dock’, mice, clocks and ‘Little Jack Horner’s plum’,
dishes eloping with spoons and cracked “Humpty” eggs that garnered
so much respect that all the king’s horses and men came to its aid?”
My mind drifted as I sang-sung the words that were impossible to
read plainly, prosaically–meter forced down the reader’s tongue and
bones–through history, fairy tales and folktales, lore of
cultures and small pockets of rural societies past when these words,
rules and references made sense, all the while losing the music that
kept my poetettes lulled to the opiate rhythms of story-song silliness.
Only when I noticed their wobbling knees and fatty little fingers
opening and closing like metronomes to music I forgot to hear, the
pulse of primal iambs that beat like limbic hearts, laughter-ful, wordless
sense, even while my lips, breath, voice, tongue and ears decoded and
reproduced the text just as it was meant to be read–filled with
drama, pause, whole notes and half notes, lento and allegro,
ha-ha! loud and sh-sh soft as we three piggies word-danced, they
with their poet souls and me with my mimed mastery of lines.