Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Hunt in Childhood

I was walking into the local library on a warm summer evening a few years back, when the door burst open, and a little boy and a girl ran out into the lawn, carrying paper shadow puppets they had just made (I could see the rest of the kids inside, the teacher picking up the scraps of paper and sponging paste off the desks). The little girl was chasing the boy; they were clearly exhilarated, laughing and flushed and enjoying the game.

Watching them, I remembered chase games from my own childhood, how much I loved them--the physicality, the sense of quest, the occasional sense of terror when you were about to be caught. (Margaret Atwood captured this beautifully in the last lines of her poem "Game After Supper": From the shadows around/the corner of the house/a tall man is coming to find us.//He will be an uncle/if we are lucky.)

The terror--that was always an interesting element. For these were just other children I was playing with, and yet sometimes in that split second before one of them would tag me--or, in rougher versions, grab hold of a sleeve and hang on till it stretched or tore, perhaps sling me to the ground, perhaps tickle or punch me--the terror of that contact was real and visceral. It seemed life might hang in the balance, that being caught could mean actual violence would befall me, that I was in real danger.

Watching those kids, I was struck by the idea that they were happily and innocently enacting a ritual--one that could go on for the rest of their lives, but never again so visibly.


This poem was hacked up with safety scissors.


Igor said...

Seriously good work!

Gina said...

Ye Gods, but I LOVE this blog and your work....LOVE it. I am seriously happy to be reminded of the writers I once adored and how much unadulterated joy I take in the precisely accurate and heart searing turn of a phrase, a line, an image. I don't post comments often, my dear, but write thousands of poems in my head after every one of your posts. Keep 'em coming! <3

M. C. Allan said...

Thanks much, you guys. Really appreciate the kind words.

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