Once, a long time ago, I went to a jumprope exhibition in the gym of a middle school. There were teams of tandem jumpers, rope dancers, and synchronized twirling. The students had practiced for many weeks prior to the exhibition. This was back in the days of big VHS camcorders, and I had one on my shoulder so I could record the coolest moments. At the very end of the competition, the gym floor cleared and a single jump roper entered the room from a side door. One of his legs was twisted up behind his head –it looked effortless, he was that flexible and agile–and he did so many tricks so fast and so well, jump-roping the whole time, that I kept the camcorder trained on him. The crowd burst into a roar.
Then I realized that the jump-roper was my son. Holy shit! That’s my son! I said, and that got recorded too.
It’s weird, when your kids grow up. Of course you expect it, and it’s wonderful, but still there are moments when you can’t believe it – like, wait, what? When did this happen? How did it happen? This bittersweet poem, which I loved the first moment I read it, makes me feel like crying the same way I feel like crying when I watch that long ago videotape. Holy shit, that’s my son.
Taking It Home to Jerome, by David Kirby
In Baton Rouge, there was a DJ on the soul station who was
always urging his listeners to “take it on home to Jerome.”
No one knew who Jerome was. And nobody cared. So it
didn’t matter. I was, what, ten, twelve? I didn’t have anything
to take home to anyone. Parents and teachers told us that all
we needed to do in this world were three things: be happy,
do good, and find work that fulfills you. But I also wanted
to learn that trick where you grab your left ankle in your
right hand and then jump through with your other leg.
Everything else was to come, everything about love:
the sadness of it, knowing it can’t last, that all lives must end,
all hearts are broken. Sometimes when I’m writing a poem,
I feel as though I’m operating that crusher that turns
a full-size car into a metal cube the size of a suitcase.
At other times, I’m just a secretary: the world has so much
to say, and I’m writing it down. This great tenderness.