The Simultaneity, the Interior Space, of "Mis suenos"

21 May

When we sent out an email, asking writer-friends from around the country to read and respond to our Badgerdog students’ writing, we figured they’d be interested, excited even.  It turns out this was a huge understatement.  For the next few months, we’ll be posting commentary, videos, and recordings of our Badgerdog students’ poems and stories … by writers from around the country (and the world!).

Today, we’re featuring a poem—”Mis suenos/My Dreams”—by Edwin, a fourth grader from Mr. Yniguez’s class at Winn Elementary, along with commentary on the poem by Noah Eli Gordon, an award-winning poet (he’s written seven books!) and professor of creative writing.

"Cloud and Bone" painting by Barringer

Mis suenos

Yo estoy tocando
nubes son azules mi
mano es de hueso
porque el acido de la
nube me quemo. Soy
un niño inquieto. Soy
un perrito. Mi mano todavia
es de hueso. Soy
un elefante. Mi mano
todavía es de hueso.
Soy un carro. Es difícil
ser un carro, les digo.
Porque? Esta bien, les voy a
decir porque tengo tres llantas
y mi mano de hueso.

My Dreams

I’m touching
clouds, they’re blue and my
hand is made of bone
because the acid from the
cloud burned me. I’m
a restless boy. I’m
a puppy. My hand is still
made of bone. I’m
an elephant. My hand
is still made of bone.
I’m a car. It’s difficult
to be a car, I tell you all.
Why? OK, I’ll tell you all why—
because I have three tires
and my hand of bone.

Edwin fourth grade, Winn Elementary School

Here’s Noah’s response to Edwin’s poem:

We adults tend to think that we know a thing or two, that we’re in command of our lives, that we’re in the driver’s seat, easily adjusting to whatever it is that opens to us on the road ahead. But this is an exterior view of life, one set on moving forward, on acceleration. And we all know what happens to the view when we start moving quickly: it blurs. Suddenly, nothing is clear; the world becomes just another mess seen from out of the window. If only we’d take the time to explore interior space, maybe the world outside of the self would once again come into focus. This is the joy of Edwin Vasquez’s poem “My Dream.” Vasquez’s speaker literally reaches into the sky, enacting the desire for transcendence, and though the clouds burn his hand, they also demonstrate the solidity of the body underneath. Just as the bone is revealed but remains unbroken so too his will for something better remains solid, shimmering, pristine, and strong as bone. The self in the poems shifts: Vasquez’s speaker is “a restless boy,” one able to admit his restlessness; and isn’t restlessness also a rejection of the stasis we might easily slip into, a pining for a better world. There’s bravery is such a statement, as there is in being able to recognize that one might not have all the answers, that one might still be on the cusp of innocence, which is what Vasquez’s speaker does by saying “I’m / a puppy.” Yes, puppy are cute, lovable, but they also need guidance; however, such a need helps those around them to recognize again the wonder in the world. But the speaker here knows he’s more than just a malleable little animal. He knows that we’re simultaneously strong and crave our independence. The bone remains a constant; the self can morph. The huge elephant is still kept upright by its skeleton. The hand is still bone. Thus, we realize that the self remains a solid, while the will oscillates continually between that of total agency and total dependence. Vasquez’s poem offers a humorous, though poignant turn in the speaker’s final transformation. Now, he’s a car, a car with only three tires, and a hand still of bone. Even if the objects of the world refuse to run, even if they fail us, our steadfast resolution, indeed, our very humanity, remains. Here, Vasquez’s poem echoes the poet Charles Olson, who famously said, “What does not change / Is the will to change.” But when Vasquez notes “I tell you all,” he’s not sharing a private moment with some imagined other; he’s speaking to the collective body, to the polis, to all of us. Paying attention to this poem just might teach you something about yourself.

Edwin is a fourth grader whose poetry has been published in Rise, the Spring 2012 Badgerdog anthology of elementary student writing.

Noah Eli Gordon is an assistant professor in the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Colorado–Boulder. Visit his PennSound page here: http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Gordon-Noah-Eli.php

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