I like to rehash this story for Pocket Poetry Day. Poetry reminds me to always keep an open mind about things. It reminds me to give things you may not seem to like a chance. It reminds me the best horizons are the ones which expand. Put a poem in your pocket and a smile on your face today.
Back in sophomore honors English, my teacher, Mrs. Goheen, gave us the assignment of memorizing and reciting a poem in front of the class. I was/am not a huge fan of poetry (Note: It’s getting better) to begin with, so this was an assignment akin to flossing and brushing the dog’s teeth. When I see poetry in books, the words get fuzzy and begin to dance around into a deadly vortex (Note: It’s getting better). As the same time, I admit there are several poems and poets I really like (Note: Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Frost) . Well, anyway, completely true to form, I forget all about the memorization assignment until late evening the night before we are to be thrown to the wolves. I search frantically through our home bookshelf listening to the “I told you so’s” from dear Mother and the laughing of the brothers. All in the know go to bed that night thinking old MH is toast in the morning in English class.
I sit in class the next morning, waiting to be called to the gallows. When my name is called, I feel the class and Mrs. Goheen stare at me with anticipation of great failure as I walk to the front of the class. For those who don’t know me, I am a lineman, plain and simple. I was probably the last over the cut line to get into honors English. I was a seat filler, a butt in the seat (Note: Always the dumbest in the smart group and being a decent to good athlete did not help me one bit with the “honors” class teachers). So, there I stand in front of the class, trying not to make eye contact with anyone. I crack my knuckles and clear my throat for a little slapstick comic relief, take my best Shakespearean stance and begin.
Behold the duck.
It does not cluck.
A cluck it lacks.
It is specially fond
Of a puddle or pond.
When it dines or sups,
It bottoms ups.
I can’t remember what grade I received on the project. The audience seemed entertained and Mrs. Goheen seemed satisfied with the selection (Note: She still saw me as a dumb jock at this point, and I didn’t really do anything to convince her otherwise until my late year cutting-edge, incisive biography book report on Bob Dylan). I am sure it was probably a B+. Mrs. Goheen asked why I picked that particular poem. I told her it was my favorite poem, but in all reality, it fit when written on the top of my tennis shoe, just in case I got stage fright. But, The Duck became my favorite poem and still the only one I have burned to memory.
Thank you Ogden Nash.
Happy Poem In Your Pocket Day to one and all!