Jin Zhu, Tim, KZSU, 2009

Ok, girls and boys.
I have someone right here
in this medicine bag
who would like to say hi.

It’s called a poem.
Maybe you’ve heard that word
before and wondered
what that might look like.

Would you like them
to come out now and be friends?
Some of you might
have mommies and daddies,

and some of you might not,
and that’s just fine,
but I know all of you
at least have a great aunt so-and-so

whose mealy apple hangs
hidden from public scrutiny
somewhere close to the family
tree’s central cleave.

You invite her to Thanksgiving,
you’ll even check
her out of the home,
but it’s not polite to stare

too long or to ask
about the Great Depression.
And that’s how people
have mostly decided to treat poems

in the past, but it doesn’t
have to be that way.
The poem is a hangover
from a more magical time.

That’s why it maybe at first seems
a little funny or even scary to you.
It gives you hard candy
all clumped together,

that’s called its music,
and you’re supposed to say thanks
even if you’re not
supposed to eat it. It’s ok

that it never quite figured out
how to work the home
security system or got over the war
you haven’t even gotten to

in your copy of
Little Leaders: American History.
The poem keeps creaking
so close to death, but it’s full

of old movies you can watch
through your fingers
from the stairwell after all the adults
in the den have fallen asleep.

If you’re a girl, it maybe makes sense
to you now how you might imagine
what French kissing will taste
like. If you even know

what that means. And if you don’t,
it doesn’t really matter.
The poem is patient. It’s gross
or confusing, but just wait.

It makes you feel feelings you
don’t even have yet.
If you’re a boy it’s more
about how you poked

that dead body
with a stick down by the river
because your older brother
told you to do it

and a bad smell fell out
of its mouth
and into your quiet time.

And maybe you’re not ready
for the poem just yet.
It’s not like the soft head of a baby
you’re told not to press

or the pet hamster
where you just throw a few pellets
into its cage every few days.

It wants to tell you something more
about yourself. What to see,
what to want, how to act like

a real human being. It takes practice,
like brushing your teeth.
You have to grow into it. It won’t
be easy, but you can end up

best friends by the fifth grade
before you grow out of it.
And again, we know

how hard growing up can be,
that’s why we’ve made
a few slight modifications

to get with the times. Made the poem more
pliable, playable, pleasingly PC, ages 7+.
It comes in racing stripes,
bouffant, western discourses.

It can level up with you, let you know
when you’re not being nice,
eject stardust out of its star compartment

and into the sky is the limit.
Go ahead, touch it. Right there at the start
of that twinkling volta.


Jim Redmond