Double Dutch Poetry

Reading Paul Fleischman’s Joyful Noise, Poems for Two Voices is akin to Double Dutch jump rope — you have your part, your partner has hers and when you’re in the groove, it’s pure joy.

The poems (all of them about insects) are set up in two columns. One reader takes the left column, the other the right. Some lines are read aloud in unison, others, alternatively. Sometimes you and your partner are reciting the same words, other times your words are completely different.  It’s dissonant and delightful.

Many moons ago, Emma and I would cuddle up in the chair in my bedroom and recite the poems. We loved House Crickets for the onomotopoetic chorus of “cricket cricket” that rubbed throughout the poem. The entomological narrator of Book Lice “… was born in a/fine old edition of Schiller. His fellow louse  “…passed [his] youth/in an Agatha Christie.”

I’ve never particularly feared these six-legged beings. Reciting the poems with Emma was a particular pleasure, especially when the fireflies told us, “Light is the ink we use/Night is our parchment.” How can you not fall in love with such an image and thus think a little more kindly of the “bugs” so many want to squish?

Our Double Dutch poem reciting is now the stuff of memory. Like the life of the mayfly, our time of reading poetry each night after dinner seems to have lasted only from morning till night. The next time we’re together, I’m bringing the book along. And maybe this poem, too.

We’re                              We’re
Mother                            Daughter
We part
                                          We part
Though our hearts
                                          Though our hearts

Span the miles                Span the miles
When we visit

                                          When we visit

There is joy                      There is joy
Then

again                                   again
we part
                                             we part

taking one another           taking one another
with us                                 with us
as we go
                                              as we go.

Debra B. Darvick