I'm a fighter, not a lover.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Haikus and Sergeant Slaughter

Given my recent mention of my third grade teacher, Ms. Ware, and What’s her face’s wonderful haiku post on her friend’s birthday, I thought it appropriate to delve deeper into grade three and bad, short poetry.

Let’s set the scene. I’m eight, rocking the same bowl cut I had since birth, except during the warm months, when it’s buzzed down to a whiffle. Chances are, I’m wearing sweat pants to school still and — as you might imagine — beating the third-grade tail off with a proverbial stick.

The previous year, I had begun writing creatively, which is a very loose phrase. Although a seven year-old boy can be pretty damned creative, barring him being some sort of a prodigy, his grasp of language is not very impressive. Nonetheless, my stories earned the attention of my teacher, along with my third-grade-teacher-to-be, Ms. Ware.

The man, the myth, the legend: Sergeant Slaughter.

In Ms. Ware’s class, we didn’t sit in a neat row of desks. Instead, we had tables, generally two kids per, arranged more or less haphazardly, in what I assume was a theorem regarding better learning tactics. Those same unique learning techniques gave us different texts, each of which came with a work book called a “Bonus Book” that my classmate, Billy, ingeniously deemed “Boner Book.”

I shared a table with a boy named Paul, whose Italian last name sounded similar to “Macaroni,” which was all that I called him. He was enfatuated with everything GI Joe, so much so, that if I ran into him today, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he was still battling Cobra in his free time.

In addition to passing along the wisdom of the previous afternoon’s cartoon (“… and knowing is half the battle.”), Paul would set up intricate battle scenes throughout our workspace, often times with some sort of zip-line between our two chairs and complete with the spit-ridden sound effects of anti-aircraft fire power. If I altered the surroundings in the slightest, Paul would have some unkind things to say to me. If I even breathed in the direction of Sergeant Slaughter, he’d cry.

Occasionally, we’d get downtime in Ms. Ware’s class, but Paul didn’t restrict the warfare to those times and I didn't really look forward to those times anyway. Instead of getting to enjoy the time trading cabbage patch kids or discussing Thundercats, I’d be given extra work because of a perceived aptitude in writing. Except, unlike the year before, I didn’t get to write stories; Ms. Ware preferred poetry.

Oh, no! Cobra's come to destroy my rhyming couplets!

She'd hand me photocopies of various poems, different genres of poetry, or writing techniques. I believe I still have them somewhere at home. I've always been terrible at writing poetry. Since that time, I've encountered enough good writers (as in, people who study poetry in college) to understand the realm of my terribleness within it. Even then, I thought I was bad.

The worst part though, was that while I was trying to come up with three brilliant, succinct lines that eloquently expressed the great mystery of the cafeteria’s bacon burgers (if they’re bacon burgers, then where’s the bacon?) while repeating “Five-Seven-Five” aloud, Paul Macaroni would be in the thick of some serious combat maneuvers, with plastic body parts, shrapnel and spittle landing all over my haikus.

While I rarely write creatively anymore and hate to call myself a professional, one thing that writing as a career has taught me is that with or without the GI Joes, there’s always a Paul to toss some saliva on your latest project.


Blogger slcup said...

Girls can't make those gun noises like boys can. I was always jealous.

5:49 PM

Blogger Sara Z. said...

Okay, I read this whole post thinking that there would at least be a small sample of your third grade poetic efforts. Pony up!

9:50 AM


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