Making the Leap
by J.R. Solonche
My daughter comes to me with a question.
"I don't understand this," she says pointing to a page in the book she is reading.
It is a novel in the form of a sequence of free verse poems for 10 to 15 year olds, of which she is one.
"What don't you understand?"
She reads it to me: "Oh, Max, don't jump jump jump jump!"
"Well, the girl is telling her pet dog not to jump off the ledge into the lake."
"I know that," she says.
"Then what is it you don't understand?"
"I don't understand why she says 'don't jump jump jump jump!' It sounds like she wants him to jump."
"Well, now I don't understand."
"If she doesn't want Max to jump, she should say, "Oh. Max, don't jump, don't don't don't don't, but she says jump jump jump jump, and I don't get it. It doesn't make sense."
"I see. That's a very fine question. I'm not sure I have a fine answer. Let's try this. Maybe it's like magic."
"Magic? What's magic?"
"Yeah, look, when the girl says jump jump jump jump instead of don't don't don't don't, she's using magic."
"I don't get."
"Well, it's hard to explain. She doesn't know it's magic, of course, but I think when people are feeling a lot of powerful emotion, like this girl is feeling a lot of powerful fear, they just say certain words over and over again without thinking about it because it's the powerful emotion that is saying the word over and over again."
"I still don't get it."
"Okay, when the girl because she is feeling very powerful fear is saying jump jump jump jump, she is trying to create a reality in which the dog doesn't jump but one in which the word jump jumps off the ledge into the lake in place of the dog."
"This is magic?"
"Yes, it's magic. The word fools the world. The world believes the dog jumps. The word sort of stands in for the thing itself. As far as the lake is concerned, the dog jumps, but it is only the word jump that jumps. So the girl saves her dog. It's magic, get it?"
"No, Dad, I don't. But thanks anyway."
"Okay, one more try. This is a poem, right?"
"Yeah, the whole book is a poem."
"Well, there's your answer. The book is magic."
"Thanks, I'll figure it out myself."
"Good. That's always the best way."
Guest blogger and Four-time Pushcart as well as Best of the Net nominee J.R. Solonche has been publishing in magazines, journals, and anthologies since the early 70s. He is coauthor of PeachGirl: Poems for a Chinese Daughter (Grayson Books) and author of Beautiful Day forthcoming from Deerbrook Editions.