Picture if you will, a Barnes and Noble. One of the fancy ones. With two stories. A cafe. A music section. You know, everything. This one’s in Torrance, California, tucked away in the parking lot of a mall where wealthy, So-Cal suburban types shop.
You see, it’s around 3:30 P.M. on May 27, 2016, and it’s time for Da Vinci Innovation Academy’s Poetry Slam. It’s late spring. A whiff of freedom perfumes the air. Summer break is so close you can taste it. Potential crackles all around you. Anything can happen.
Barnes and Noble has given our group the stage. They’ve given us a microphone. They’ve connected this microphone to the store’s audio system so everyone shopping can partake in the delightful sounds of children reading their carefully crafted words out loud.
It’s innocent. It’s sweet. A slam dunk in the crowd pleasing department. What could go wrong?
My son was five, going on six. He was in kindergarten. We’re the kind of people who usually like to spend a lot of time outdoors. We like to go to the South Coast Botanical Gardens because they don’t care if you touch their plants and get real hands-on with nature. In fact, they encourage it. These are things I support. So I am a member.
In the member email, the garden informed me that there was a plant called “The Squirting Cucumber” growing in the children’s garden. Apparently, it propagates itself by launching its seeds out into the world, carried in a slimy goo. The seed pod explosion gets triggered when it is jiggled by a passing animal or curious child. I told my son about it.
The plant does exactly that. You jiggle the seed pod, it goes launching off, spreading seeds, goo, and the next generation of squirting cucumbers. It’s just as awesome as it sounds. I highly recommend you try it, if the opportunity presents itself. Be careful, though. I got hit in the face with the seed goo on our first jiggle.
Being the multi-tasking homeschooling mom I was, I decided to incorporate poetry into the experience. I had him describe the plant to me while I wrote down what he said.
Friends, this poem that you’re about to read is the kind of masterpiece that can only be written by a young child captivated by the magic of nature and the excitement of explosions. The language choices are bold. Descriptive. Full of sensory details and careful observations.
But maybe not by an adult on a microphone at a fancy pants Barnes and Noble in the middle of a weekday afternoon. That everyone in the store can hear. Without the context of knowing that this is an elementary school poetry event.
These are the words that he wrote. These are also the words that closed the poetry slam. Once you go here, there’s really nowhere else to go. Except home.
By Arthur Racusin
I am a squirter.
You can jiggle me for a big surprise.
I am an oval.
Be careful of my squirty-squirt surprise.
I have bumps, as bumpy as can be.
I smell like a ton of plants and compost.
If you see me already active,
Chances are you’ll see my active stuff.
When I blow up, you’ll be squirted straight in the face.