In no way am I minimizing the concerns and cautions of going back to school during a pandemic. I’m just wondering how today’s students will look back and remember their school days when they are older. I would imagine the past school year and the coming one will stand out in their memories for a lifetime.
In his retirement years, the late Elgie McDonough of Barron became known as “The Old Country Poet” for all the yarns he spun about his life. In a compilation printed by the Chronotype 3 decades ago, he wrote about changing seasons in “Spring Breeze,” “The Winds of Fall,” and “Winter Art.” His hobbies were related in rhyme with “Fishing Fever,” “Bear Facts” and “Deer Tales” among many others about nature, farming and hunting. He shared his love of faith and family and friendships through rhyming prose.
Glancing through his book, one of many from local authors and poets on shelves in our office, the poem that caught my eye was simply called School Daze. It is his look back in rhyme of his early “extra-curricular”activities McDonough wrote, “Tain’t me, said he, as he slouched down in his seat; I didn’t shoot that paper wad, that lies there at your feet.
“You know I wouldn’t be so bold, as do a silly thing like that; to bounce a juicy paper wad off from your hips so f__.
“The thing I really meant to say, I think you’re awful nice; and if anyone would shoot at you, they’re gambolin’ with their life.
“The rubber bands around my wrist, what’s that you say? Why that’s so I remember to put my books away.
“The big boys, ain’t they awful? They do the meanest things. At noon they tease us little boys, until the school bell rings.
“You would like to look inside my desk? I can’t imagine why. Oh, those tightly folded paper strips? Well, I cannot tell a lie.
“You see the big boys taught me how, to take a perfect aim. So now I know you’ll understand, the big boys are to blame.”
What stood out in McDonough’s memory from his school days as a youngster was shooting spit wads, even aiming, some at girls he sort of liked.
What about today’s school kids? Some day as they think back and compose poems about their school days, they will have a whole vocabulary of words related to the pandemic to work with—wearing a mask was such a task, keep a distance or face resistance, and there’s kid, hid and a lot of words that rhyme with COVID. It may take a glamorizer, though, to come up with a word that rhymes with sanitizer.
I haven’t retired yet, and I haven’t written any rhyming poems since my youth. Maybe I’ll try my hand at it again some day. My school days poem will probably include the words flute, bus, brown bag lunches, the gym suit, locker combination, autograph book and maybe even some words that rhyme with memorable teachers like Miss Grutt or Mrs. Kleve.
Poems are a brief and brilliant way to record history; sometimes the truth lies between the words. I wish that passion would come back into fashion. A poem that’s concise is very nice. And if, by chance, a poem has rhyme, its thoughts will linger for a very long time.