Thursday, December 29, 2005


Rae suggested on her blog to read a short story titled "Wheat", by Tracey Slaughter. I was glad I did. "Wheat" was the winner of the 2004 Bank of New Zealand Katherine Mansfield Award, judged by Vincent O'Sullivan. My favorite part:

"Forever is never as long as you think it will be. It is only a clipping of wheat. It is a frond of light, & it falls. It falls.

Golden, I would write: golden. They don't let you write golden these days. Look, just look at the shape of it on the page, the teacher tells me: soft, overblown.

He writes it on the blackboard, golden. I want you to look at this word, he tells the class, I want you to study it. This word represents every cliché that I want you to cut from your language. This word is poeticism.

It is a demon in cherubic form. You must cast it out.

My son's hair was golden. Let me write golden. Let me write golden."

This reminded me of a poem of mine that includes my own son's wheat hair getting cut. Unfortunately, I wasn't brave enough to use the word golden.

Here's the poem, though I'll warn you ahead of time, you probably won't enjoy or even get much of it unless you are a fan of the book The Little Prince.

Draw Me a Sheep
J.B. Rowell

“By the light of the moon, I gazed at the pale forehead, those closed eyes, those locks of hair trembling in the wind, and I said to myself, What I’m looking at is only a shell. What’s most important is invisible . . .”
The Little Prince

Her favorite color is brown,
announces it in class at church,
and furthermore,
her favorite animal is a
poisonous snake.

I am not there to explain
that her favorite color really is brown
because she “loves all colors,”
and that we were reading
a story with snakes
just the night before:
boa wrapping around a beast,
yellow flash then a fall
soundless on the sand.

* * *

Head down, eyes up,
like he does when he acts shy.
He looks in the mirror,
at the shell, with wheat locks
falling in a circle
on his black cape.

Waking like he left
his carefully tended planet,
mourns it each morning.
The flock has dropped him
onto this desert place
lonely with and
without people.

I protect what I can see
but what can be done about
the invisible unfolding inside?
Beyond the air holes
where the sheep breathe and grow,
to just the right age, size,
and temperament for taming.


Blogger Pris said...

I like this! And where did you find the short story to read? I, of course, have heard of Katherine Mansfield and admire her poetry, so an award in her name would mean a lot.

5:48 PM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger Pris said...

Duhh...the dummy finally figured out that by clicking on wheat the story would come up:-) It IS excellent!

5:51 PM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

I'm glad you like it Pris! I have read and enjoyed Katherine Mansfield's short stories, but have not read her poems - I'll have to look into that - thanks. Also, don't be so hard on yourself, I'm just dazzling you with my blogging skills. lol :) I actually just recently figured out how to do a link like that . . . this is still new to me.

6:02 PM, December 29, 2005  
Blogger Michelle e o said...

I loved the story and your poem. Actually it's probably one of my favorites of yours so far and I've never read The Little Prince.

8:04 PM, December 30, 2005  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

Thanks Michelle, that's important someone can get something out of it even if they haven't read the book. Poems should stand on their own, don't you think? I do recommend The Little Prince too. Amazing.

10:37 AM, December 31, 2005  

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