It was worse than embarrassing.  It had been bad enough
when he was little, and, now, when they said to him==”hey, you twelve now, boy, almost a man, not
a little bitty baby,”–he wanted to bite it off, sling it onto the highway, cast it into some woods, lose it anywhere there were trucks, trash, tangle. It just wasn’t

something a boy did–stick his tongue out–

and he did it all the time when he was drawing, really just concentrating on anything only that was mainly drawing, like he wanted to just reach out and give whatever he drew

a taste–

Only it didn’t look like that, it just looked

stupid, and so, as he began the hull, he tried to press his lips into a seam, the pencil curving, cause it was

boats he liked to draw mainly–old clipper ships with sails, or else

destroyers–he’d seen them in the library but mainly copied from

a catalogue they’d gotten, wrong-address–

the clipper ships built

in bottles, which seemed to him impossible, bottles something they just threw in the heap out back, a toss of crackling

into cracked, and the destroyer which the catalog said

weighed paper.  He could not understand why someone would want

to weigh paper, but didn’t worry about that part, ’cause what caught him was

that it was ” “just perfect for

that nautical guy

in your household.”

and even though he knew “nautical” had something to do with the sea and maybe even

boats, he pronounced it “now–oo–tical,” in his head, and it always made him think that the guy the destroyer would be just perfect for was someone who got everything right now-oo, and, he thought,

looking at the battleship, that in their house that would be his grandpa though he couldn’t actually imagine him saying “right now–oo,” which sounded like a howl, and may even kind of a joke, while when his grandpa wanted something it was kind of

a sharp right now, sort of like what he imagined to be the crinkles in

a crisp sea, or what they talked about in books
as the slap of the waves, or the cuts he imagined that
destroyer might make

through water, or a broken

bottle, his face even looking

like a destroyer, the thick grey eyebrows like

the bridge, the eyes, those gun tubes, his nose, beaked, prowed–

Which is when he remembered to check, lifting his pencil point towards his lips, and tasting

the graphite.

And cursed himself, using every word he did know how
to pronounce, and opened his mouth widely, though not so widely someone could actually see him opening it, and shut his mouth tight, and then tried to pretend that he was just yawning, in case someone could see, though he was as wired inside

as a straining rope, cause when he pulled his tongue back in his mouth, it burned, touching his pallet,

and after a minute he couldn’t help but try to press it against his teeth, anything, as if teeth

were comforters–

Then shook his head, wiping his pencil hand over the moistness, sweat, and, when he started to draw again, tried to hint at the outline of the planks on the clipper’s side, at the rounding of the wood that shinnied up the mast’s climb,  trying to make something solid

with shading, feeling all along the push of the tongue at his teeth,

though he hated feeling that, thinking of that, and when he got to the top of the mast, and poured himself into
the crow’s nest, he realized it had slid forward and out again, just a little, but furious, he bit it,

and to be honest, he tried not to bite it hard because

it was already so sore, and because

a part of him could not really believe that learning soreness would teach him

to keep it in its place; if learning soreness

kept it in its place, it would have a hide-out in

his stomach by now, maybe even

his big toe,

and he tried hard to laugh at that, the picture of tongue in toe, when it panged, and then, when it kept panging, to think of the pain as pencil points, dotting the heads of birds in his ship’s sky, flipping out their wing spans, and when the pain seemed like

it would not quiet, he tried to picture his mouth like the mouth of Jonah’s fish, which could keep Jonah inside without even hurting him

and then tried, thinking of that not-hurting, to push through
to the sails, his favorite parts, the way they let his pencil capture winds and sky and movement, and he drew their curves carefully, trying to imagine a tongue stuck in his toe, but never somehow the curves of his own cheeks, the slope down to his lips, the breathe stowed in his tight, bent, chest.


Here’s a draft something for Herotomost’s prompt on With Real Toads.  Herotomost said it could be anything inspired by a truth seen from a twelve=year old’s eyes=Herotomost creates a great picture of his own twelve-year old in a tangle of jungle, somehow making me imagine this one, and some little truth there–

Sorry for the length–and the picture is also not exactly right, not a clipper but something from NYC (where I am right now.) 

Also, I am not very good at posting sidebar pictures, but I wanted to let you know my new book Nice, written in part from a child’s perspective, is out.  Check it out!  Buy it!  (It’s cheap.)  I would be happy to get one to anyone interested in reviewing!  Thanks.  

PP Native Cover_4696546_Front Cover




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17 Comments on “Clipper”

  1. Herotomost Says:

    I love it when you write long stuff…this was fantastic. I always think it’s cool to see where prompts take people and this one took. you in a very creative direction. Great work and congrats on your book, where can we get it?

  2. brian miller Says:

    an interesting character you have created in this boy…in his self awareness…and his history you tell in describing his grandfather…and the dascination with the boats…i am intrigued by him…

  3. claudia Says:

    so interesting k. – love how you show us a bit of his character and let us in on his thoughts… when i draw and i’m really concentrated, i start humming – it’s not a conscious thing – and it’s embarrassing a bit if you stand next to a fellow sketcher or if you’re in a tram and suddenly realize someone is looking at you…

  4. hedgewitch Says:

    I read this yesterday, k, but my mind didn’t feel up to a coherent comment worthy of it. You have given us not just the child’s point of view, or life through his eyes, but a whole picture of what childhood can do to us, how it can shape, warp, heal, obscure or intensify who we are. I think we all forget as we age and our armor becomes more efficient exactly how vulnerable, how easily hurt we actually were–full of every potential without the means to really express it and bring it out, without the tools to understand, let alone deal with the force of others’ personalities and agendas. Very vivid and sharp writing, k. I love the way you have mingled the actual drawing so visually nto the boys thoughts and feelings.

  5. I loved this poem. The child’s perspective felt real and I was able to relate to it. Many thanks. Congrats on the book.

    Greetings from London.

  6. Vividly created, K…I’ve seen those who concentrate that way as well when they’re being creative. Nicely captured! 🙂

  7. grapeling Says:

    guess I need to go back and look at the other pens to that prompt. been so out of writing, of late, i missed it. i have a 13 year old son and this is so well done, k ~

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      You know it is so lovely to get all these comments–It is a bit like actually visiting with some one and I thank you for it. It is also like visiting back through these prompts– my life has been so busy and a little chaotic that I completely forget what I write– I should spend more time on things probably but I’d lose track and get terribly depressed too as everything would feel poorly written to me if I let the ink get too dry! The excitement of new birth takes away some of the edge of inadequacy– I hope you don’t suffer from such feelings but they may go a bit with the territory. Thanks. K.


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