When my children were little one of our favorite books was The Philharmonic Gets Dressed. Such a simple story. In apartments all over New York City, orchestra musicians are dressing for the evening performance. Everyone wears black. They muscle their instruments, large and small, into cabs and the subway, and they head to work. My children and I read this book over and over, usually at bedtime, where it soothed their way into sleep. It’s long gone from my shelves, but I still think about it.
This book and others like it tantalize me, because the author took something familiar –an orchestra–and focused on the unfamiliar. Musicians not in their orchestra pit at a grand hall, but at home, getting dressed. The backstory. The unthought-about. It’s dangerous to think you know everything about something or someone. It leads to complacency, to boredom, and sometimes to destruction. When I read this poem below and pictured a moon radish, The Philharmonic Gets Dressed floated back into my mind. And lo and behold, Karla Kuskin was the quiet genius behind both.
Write About a Radish, by Karla Kuskin
Write about a radish
Too many people write about the moon.
The night is black
The stars are small and high
The clock unwinds its ever-ticking tune
Hills gleam dimly
Distant nighthawks cry.
A radish rises in the waiting sky.