Today I want to share a poem that Benj apparently wrote in school last year and that I just found while packing up his room in preparation for our impending move.  I’d never read it before, and was quite astonished by it.   “A poem begins as a lump in the throat,” Robert Frost once wrote, and Benj’s poem has created a very large lump in mine:

 

 SNOW BIRD

The bird I imagine is totally white.
You couldn’t see him with snow all around.
But if you were out on a clear starry night,
His bright in the deep of the dark would astound.

Bird or snow, it’s hard to tell
Which is which, or which one fell
Down from the frosty, starry sky,
And which flew up to call “Bye-bye!”

The dark is deep, you can’t see it.
His cry comes out, a loud “Whoo-hoo!”
It’s almost as if a lantern’s lit
Up the way from him to you.

Bird or snow, it’s hard to tell
Which is which, or which one fell
Down from the frosty, starry sky,
And which flew up to call “Bye-Bye!”

You might reach your hand to feel warm in
the cold.
There’s no fire, no light, no heat you can see.
But something is there that makes you bold;
No snow, no chill, only the dream in the tree.

Bird or snow, it’s hard to tell
Which is which, or which one fell
Down from the frosty, starry sky,
And which flew up to call “Bye-bye!”

Benjamin, Winter 2011-2012, Age 11

 

I have always had a special fondness for winter poems and bird poems, and now I have a new one to admire and cherish.  As a graduate student at Yale, a poem about a bird in winter, Robert Frost’s “Looking for a Sunset Bird in Winter,” was the subject of the very first class I ever taught.  In The Anti-Romantic Child, I write about how I shared Frost with little Benj and then in the wake of the discovery that he had hyperlexia, worried that his dramatic and seemingly impassioned readings and recitations of poignant lines from Frost’s poetry were mere symptoms of his disorder, not the result of any real attachment, understanding, or appreciation.  I feared that Benj, who at three years old had severe fine and gross motor delays, virtually no original language, and a zealous resistance to pretending, would never be able to express himself in the first person, construct a meaningful and coherent thing (be it a sentence or a tower of blocks let alone a poem), imagine, reside in uncertainty (“hard to tell”), convey his fears, dreams, observations, and ideas to listeners, readers, loved ones.   How wrong I was.  “The bird I imagine,” Benj’s poem begins, and that phrase alone encapsulates his growth, his flourishing, his flight.  Thank you Benj, my snow bird, for making me bold.  Your brightness astounds me . . .