Sunday, May 13, 2007

408. How to Read This Story to Your Children - Kathleen Flenniken

When you woof for the dog,
imagine him gray at the muzzle,
profound and gentle, but
with a taste for tasseled loafers.
The clock in the hall tick tocks
with an Eastern European accent;
the scissors snip crisply
as a nurse in starched cap.

The child in this story never ain'ts
or slams doors or speaks insincerely,
and he's suspiciously good natured.
You'll need to intimate with your pauses
the sticky striped candy hidden in his fist,
and in the spaces between words
those midnight walks
when he sneaks into a field
of sunflowers and stars.

When Father speaks,
put a slight yawn in his voice,
as though he's only just
wakened into his life,
the delicacy of his son's bones,
his wife's cotton dress,
the morning home free from
the mysteries of work. Where
have I been? he seems to ask
behind his newspaper.
How do I enter the story?

And the smiling mother,
who speaks of nothing
but blueberries and making jam––
let her voice have an edge to say
she hates the hot work of canning,
the too-small house.
The sweeter and more patient her words,
the more impatient she sounds,
hinting she might shout with dismay
if her child asks one more question,
or run out and cut off all her hair.

When you're narrating, be the voice
of kindness, your very best self,
but a little removed
as if watching from the top banister.
You read in warm blue tones suggesting
dog and boy, father and mother
retrace their steps
over countless readings,
that no matter how they never learn,
you forgive them everything.

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