“The girl had a magic bow on her head.
She thought it worked.
but it did not because it was broken.
She still went for a walk though.”
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,—
One clover, and a bee,
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.
Sometimes it takes so little. Sometimes we don’t need much. I don’t know the story behind Emily’s poem but I do know this one: Melissa’s older sister Lani came to my house for a children’s writing workshop. Their mom, Nancy, was planning to drop off Lani and then go to the park with her six year old but Melissa walked into my living room, saw the other kids and the big bouquet of flowers, got wide-eyed and wanted to stay. Fine by me; I like those kids who’ve got poems in their head before they walk through the door.
I don’t remember what the writing subject was. It didn’t matter to Melissa. Her poem was a nugget inside her, a stone she’d been holding in her hand, in her pocket for a long time. Without a breath of hesitation, after we sat down together on the carpeted step, she dictated her poem. And I wrote it down. The punctuation isn’t mine. It was how she said it that let me know where the pauses were.
That poem’s been a smooth, round stone in my hand, in my pocket ever since that day, maybe twenty years ago.
It didn’t matter that the magic bow was broken. It’s the symbol of the thing, the heart-stone of it. Her imagination had bestowed the bow with all Melissa needed to go for a walk.
My favorite picture book as a little girl was called Little Bear. Perhaps you remember it too? Little Bear wants to play out in the snow but it’s so cold. So his mother makes him a hat. Out he goes only to return, complaining of the cold. His good mother keeps making him more clothing to warm her little bear up: mittens and a coat. Little Bear is still cold! When he complains again, she removes all his outer clothing. His mother tells him he’s a little bear, after all and has all he needs, his very own fur coat! Out he goes to play happily.
Edwidge Danticat’s new children’s book, Eight Days, A Story of Haiti is about a little boy, Junior, who’s caught beneath the rubble of his home, during the earthquake and he can’t get out. Junior describes what he’s doing down there, in the dark, how he’s playing the biggest marble game of his life with his friend Oscar, how they’re flying kites together. That’s the work of the imagination, it’s the imagination’s imperative, lifesaving power.
Sure has taken good care of me, not that I’ve ever been in such physical need of it. I’m remembering the Russian poet, Irina Ratushinskaya, imprisoned for crimes she didn’t commit, who wrote poems on bars of soap, kept the soap until she had the poems memorized and then washed the evidence away.
On my walk the other day, I didn’t have a magic bow—broken or otherwise. I did have the new pair of walking shoes Michael bought me. They kept me from slipping! And the revery? That’s my finest companion, walking on holy ground. My imagination made a picture of my father feeling better than he does. Sometimes it takes so little. Sometimes, the lucky ones, have not everything, maybe not enough, only what we need most.