Friday, June 6, 2014

Charlie

Lewis Hine, 1909
Now that I have decided to publish my "senior farewell" poems here, I suppose I will share last year's; kind of work backward. I will take a break after this one -- too many of these in a row could get tedious, I suppose.

One day, some time during 2013, I heard an old man ask his grandchild what he wanted to "be" when he grew up and it struck me how strange it is that we immediately think of jobs when we ask and are asked that question -- as if our jobs are our personal identity -- what we are. Why don't we ask, "What do you want to do?"In a way, it is a kind of brainwashing, isn't it? Well, not if you have a grandfather like Charlie's...

Charlie

No one knew Grandfather was magical,
But Charlie knew.
No one knew Grandfather had a box with a secret, inside --
The way to be happy forever.
But Charlie knew.

When Charlie was three, he asked for the box.
And Grandfather tapped the boy’s nose and asked:
“What will you be when you grow up?”
Charlie thought, and said: “I will be an astronaut.”
“You may not have it yet,” said Grandfather,
Putting the box away,
To await another day.

When Charlie was ten, he asked for the box of happiness again.
And Grandfather said: “What will you be when you grow up?”
Charlie didn’t need to think. He said, “I will be a baseball player.”
“Sorry. Not yet,” said Grandfather, smiling,
As he put the box away,
To await another day.

When Charlie was eighteen, he asked for the box, yet again.
And Grandfather asked, “What will you be when you leave college?”
Charlie was ready with an answer, this time,
His hands out in anticipation: “A doctor!” he said, ready to collect his prize.
Grandfather looked at Charlie’s eyes for a long time.
“No…not yet,” he said, smiling sadly,
And he put the box away,
To await another day.

When Charlie was forty, he had tried many things,
But he was not happy.
Grandfather was very old now, and Charlie traveled far this time,
But he touched the old man’s hand, and asked, in a tremolo whisper, for the box.
And Grandfather asked back in a whisper,
“What will you be, my grandson, when you grow up?”
Charlie smiled, and his eyes teared a little and he said:
“Charlie, Grandfather. I will be Charlie. What else can I be?”

And, smiling, Grandfather handed Charlie the box.
And Charlie was never sad again.

Many years later, a little girl tapped Charlie and asked him for the box.
And Grandfather Charlie asked her, “What will you be when you grow up?”
The girl furrowed her brow and Charlie smiled a Grandfather’s smile.
And he put the box away.
To await another day.

Hoping it wouldn’t take very long. 

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