Art Lesson


Summer vacation was over and soon

our third grade paintings hung in a parade

above Mrs. Barron’s blackboard,

each one with its house, its car,

its regulation tree that no one climbed.

By Christmas vacation our painted parade

had grown into a giant rainbow snake

whose art board body wrapped around

the upper edges of our room.

It was that paper snake,

those quickly chosen paints

that shaped our need for color,

that showed us how we felt

and why our sky was never simply blue.

Once during Friday’s time for art

when we all had dipped our brushes

into our separate jars,

it was Howard’s hand

that mixed two colors into one,

that learned to paint

with every shade and hue,

the pastel pinks of dawn,

the brighter skies of blue.

We needed him to show us how,

needed to sample with our brushes

his new colors that would not fit our jars,

needed him to fill our room

with all his painted people

who were already bright and climbing

beyond the subtle shade

of all our blackboard trees,

beyond the hand of color

to paint the summer breeze.



©Charles Ghigna

9 comments:

  1. Oh, I love this. I love Howard, whose "new colors that would not fit our jars." I love "those quickly chosen paints that shaped our need for color, that showed us how we felt and why our sky was never simply blue." I love the ending of this poem. I love the trip I took when I read it. Thank you, Charles. A.

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  2. Thank you, Amy! You are always so generous and kind with your praise.
    Your poems inspire me and I am honored to be working with you on our
    unplugable poem project.

    This poem is one in a series of my Howard prose poems (my alter ego) from an unpublished collection titled HOWARD BE THEY NAME. I'm so glad you like it. Your comments give me hope. Some of the individual poems have been published in Harper's and other magazines, but the collection itself has yet to find a home.

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  3. Hi, Charles. I think this would be a great poem to use in elementary school workshops. What begins with "its regulation tree that no one climbed" turns into something magical, the joy of creativity and imagination. I also like the subtle suggestion that Mrs. Barron is standing back and making space for the children to make this discovery on their own.

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  4. Thanks, Laura! I appreciate your sharing this insightful perspective on the poem.

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  5. You're so skillful with rhyme, Charles, that I had forgotten how much I love your free verse.

    I especially love the ending:

    painted people

    who were already bright and climbing

    beyond the subtle shade

    of all our blackboard trees,

    beyond the hand of color

    to paint the summer breeze


    Those painted people and the hand of color...sigh. SO wonderful.

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  6. Thanks, Laura. I like to think of writing free verse as cross-training. ;-)

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  7. I agree about the teacher. She is my favorite character in this poem, although Howard (be his name) is pretty great, too!

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  8. Thanks, Elizabeth and Mary Lee. I appreciate your kind words. I'm sitting here tweaking the ms right now.

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