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Poppy and Phoenix

by Zettel 

Posted: 14 April 2017
Word Count: 97
Summary: The picture on my profile prompted this poem. Plus a video of these two 2-year olds walking hand in hand

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          Poppy and Phoenix
Innocence went hand in hand
Skipping with delight
Collecting humble sticks
Gravely sought serious faced
Purpose unknown undefined
Precious to the emerging mind
Chatting with serious intent
Selves not yet fully formed
In unremarked delight
Share the joy of being
As we wonder how each knows
What the other meant
All is for them yet to come
With other hands to hold
Different sticks to gather in
For purposes then known
As their mystery unfolds
A magic echo calls
Unshaped memories remind
Of these days of innocence
We all must leave behind

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Comments by other Members

Cliff Hanger at 15:45 on 15 April 2017  Report this post
Hi Zettel

It would be easy for a poem like this to stray into the romanticism of say a Millais painting but it doesn't because it's clear you're writing about carefully observed behaviour. I really like these lines

As  we wonder how each knows
what the other meant

and how it builds towards the last stanza which is very strong. Repeating in the gathering of sticks but showing the potential for it in a different context and looking forward to lost innocence is very effective. It's a very charming poem but it's sophisticated too and I love the picture of the girls sooo much.

You're very lucky.


Zettel at 00:44 on 16 April 2017  Report this post
Thanks Jane

Indeed we are.  All life is a gift to feel grateful for every day. And when it is this young innocent and vulnerable that only reinforced ones gratitude.  Glad you like the poem which you have seen clearly and accurately.It feels good to get over what one is trying to say.



V`yonne at 10:35 on 16 April 2017  Report this post
Unremarked delight

is such a wonderful phrase redolent with the joy of being which is what you are demonstating to the reader in this poem. I thought the two repetitions -- delight and serious -- were appropriate and underline that joy and show that it has a purpose beyond itself and into the future.

The looking back in the last stanza balances these thoughts.

Perhaps the final line could just be 'left behind' even so that it doesn't include the reader so much. That would be my only suggestion but see what others think.

Zettel at 01:38 on 17 April 2017  Report this post
Thanks Oonah

Glad you liked it.  Think I sort of want the reader included but and am open to others' suggestions.



James Graham at 20:52 on 17 April 2017  Report this post
It’s a pleasure to read this poem. You capture much of the essence of childhood, and the poem succeeds in doing so because, as Jane says, it’s based on ‘carefully observed behaviour’. For instance, children are so often ‘serious faced’ when engaged in some enterprise. To adults it seems they’re ‘playing’ or ‘having fun’ but to the children it’s as serious as architects discussing a new building project.
Collecting humble sticks

is a very nice touch: again, to the adult observer it may seem a rather pointless activity, but the children know what they’re doing. They’ve thought it through. Alternatively, instead of starting out with a plan they may be exploring possibilities: when they’ve collected the sticks they will decide what to do with them. You suggest the latter in
Purpose unknown undefined

The lines which stand out for me, largely because I feel they were true of my own grandchildren when they were that age, are:
As we wonder how each knows
What the other meant

I do remember that they often seemed to read each other’s mind, simultaneously starting to do something without having said anything to each other. Even if they were talking, it would be difficult for an adult to follow what they were saying – but they would know. These are very true observations of childhood.

Regarding the last line, I think readers could scarcely help being drawn into this poem. If you were to omit ‘We all’, I don’t imagine anyone would engage any less with your insights into childhood. Certainly anyone who has had children of their own, or even been an aunt or uncle, would relate to the poem. So your closing two lines could be
Of these days of innocence
Soon to be left behind.

I mustn’t forget to mention ‘Different sticks to gather in’ which is a very telling line. Somehow you make it represent almost any grown up activity – working, studying, travelling etc. We are collecting experiences, life events, successes and failures. At the same time this line re-connects adult life with its source in childhood. Could I suggest these changes?
Other sticks to gather in
For reasons yet unknown

‘Other hands to hold’/ ‘Other sticks’ seems a good repetition. In the second line I’m thinking in terms of future adult concerns as yet unknown to the children. This way of putting it seems to follow naturally from the first line of this stanza, ‘All is for them yet to come’.

I’ll say it again: it’s a pleasure to read this poem.


Zettel at 01:49 on 18 April 2017  Report this post
Thanks James

Actually watching language develop gives the lie to the hopelessly 'conceptualised' accounts of it that many Philosophers offer.  Never was Wittgenstein's injunction: "Don't think, look!" more apposite. And it is clear that many Philosophical accounts of the 'mind' are off beam as it is clear that thinking is going on long before language has hardly begun to develop.  Actual observation (and modern child psychology) gives the lie also to the old idea that a child lays down no 'memories' until 3 years old and after. It is palpably clear to me that Poppy thinks, understands much of the world about her and has insights about it even though she doesn't yet have the formalised shared languauge within which to express those ideas. When she laughs: she is laughing at something.

If anyone has an interest in these issues or indeed has young children/grandchildren I can highly recommend emminent US child psychologist Alison Gopnik. She has written a number of inspirational, insightful books including 'The Scientist In The Crib; How Children Think; The Philosophical Baby' . Her most recent book 'The Gardener and The Carpenter' questions the conception of 'parenting' as 'creating' a 'successful' individual through pushing academic attainment and pursuit of qualifications etc directed towards specific life goals etc - the traditional educational process of tests, exams, degrees etc - this is the parent as 'Carpenter' of her title. Against this she says good parents are more like Gardeners, nourishing and nurturing; providing a learning-rich environment where guidance is not training but inspiration, motivation; providing an environment where the child follows its natural inclination to learn; not its acquired resistance to being 'taught'.  Gopnik is also associate professor of Philosphy at Berkeley so most unusually, she is a scientist who has some understanding of (good) Philosophy. Her book challenges what is becoming the 'accepted' concept of 'good parenting' - the kind that I am sure all the women in the current government, including Mrs May, would advocate. And are in the process of wasting oodles of money on promoting.

Watching Poppy it seems to me, as Gopnik argues, children are born learning and wanting to learn; they are instinctively voracious learners.  It is no small tragic flaw in our culture that somewhere along the line we divert, hinder, diminish this precious instinct - albeit with so called 'realistic' 'practical' good intentions. But as was wisely said: it is not the road to heaven that is paved with.........

Really pleased you and the others liked the poem. To try to do justice in a few words to something so precious, is a big ask and it is good to know that one has to some extent at least, not done such experiences a disservice.




Zettel at 11:19 on 18 April 2017  Report this post
Of course the Carpenter concept of 'good' parenting is not gender specific.  Alpha-male, goal-directed men are perhaps its biggest devotees: Gove et al.


optimist at 14:45 on 18 April 2017  Report this post
Really enjoyed reading this. Love the image of the children and especially -

A magic echo calls

Very effective.

James Graham at 15:15 on 18 April 2017  Report this post
This is a wonderful insight about parenting. Without hesitation I would subscribe to the idea that parents should be ‘gardeners’, although I’m not sure I was the best of gardeners myself. But I’m glad to say my daughter was a ‘gardener’, always thinking of ways to let the children have creative fun and learn naturally. Just one example: they learned, with great pleasure, how to look after chickens and ducks. Then, after minimal carpentry work they still got themselves degrees – a Masters with Distinction and a First Class Honours!

You might consider writing a poem in which you write about parenting in terms of gardening. I imagine it could just be a series of examples describing children’s experiences (your granddaughter’s experiences) in terms of rich soil, sun and shade, budding, flowering etc. It might work.

Thank you for sharing this brilliant concept about the nurture of children.


Zettel at 00:06 on 24 April 2017  Report this post
Thanks Optimist and James again.

I don't think the 'gardener' conception is intended to be opposed to formal attainments; just to root them in learning for its own sake,as an end in itself not merely a means to an end.  We sadly seem to be losing faith in this conception especially in our Universities and even shamefully in our over-prescriptive approach to Primary, which seem increasingly to be pressurised into asembly line carpentry.

Really thrilled that this poem has been appreciated and enjoyed as the several comments indicate.




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