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Poem: "The Things We Tell, the Thongs We Don't" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Things We Tell, the Thongs We Don't"
This poem came out of the August 5, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from eseme and siliconshaman.  It has been sponsored by janetmiles.  It also fills the "secret" square on the Birthday Bingo Fest public card.  This poem belongs to the series Monster House.


The Things We Tell, the Thongs We Don't




After my daughter's thirteenth birthday party,
I take her aside to talk about secrets.

She's always been good about discretion,
because there are things it isn't safe
to mention to just anybody --

but girlfriends grow their friendships
in the telling and keeping of secrets,
so it's not good to stifle that either.

The bogeyman leans in the doorway,
picking pink confetti out of his hair.
He is skilled at keeping everyone safe, and
for all his savage grace, a soft touch at heart.

So my daughter and I talk about secrets,
which ones are fair to share and which are not,
and how to tell the difference between them.

"Think of magic like a thong," I explain,
knowing that she's excited over
getting to wear more-grownup underwear.
"It's okay to have and to use, but
not everyone needs to hear about that.
Anyone who's never going to see it
doesn't need to know about it."

She giggles. "I wish I had more things
that would be safe to talk about," she says.
"I want to make some secrets that
are a little weird but okay to share."

"What about taking up an outrageous hobby?"
I suggest. "If you tell your friends and they laugh,
then you'll know they aren't great friends,
but it won't really hurt anyone."

"Sounds like fun," she says.

So we spend her birthday evening
browsing the internet for unusual pastimes.

She declares mooing and milk bottle collecting
to be boring, and I can't blame her.
I declare faking your death and extreme ironing
to be unreasonably risky, and she agrees.

I describe competitive dog grooming
and tape art and soap carving.
She laughs, but wants something
less visual and more tactile.

"Hikaru dorodango,"  I read,
"also known as polishing dirt."

"WHAT?" my daughter says,
laughing so hard she tips over.

"You make these mud balls, dry them,
smooth them, and they turn into
shiny balls like paperweights," I explain.
She loves to play with her mother's paperweights.

So she takes up dirt polishing as a hobby,
and some of her friends laugh,
but some of them think it's pretty cool.

When we go on vacation, we pick up dirt,
and she makes balls of red and yellow and black.

She tells her friends about those
instead of the bogeyman and the troll and
the monsters under-the-bed and in-the-closet.

There are ways to make connections
without putting anyone at risk, because lives,
like these little balls of mud, are so very fragile.

* * *

Notes:

Discretion is an important virtue to develop as part of character.  Think about whether to keep or reveal a secret before deciding.  Know how to tell a secret or keep a secret.

Thirteen is a common age when parents start letting girls do more mature things.  Wearing makeup is one example.  Wearing sexy underwear such as thongs is another.

Hikaru dorodango  is one of the strangest hobbies, very popular in Japan.  Some instructions use straight mud and dirt, while others include other ingredients such as sand.  This sounds like a terrific hobby for anyone who is touch-dominant, for some folks who are working on tactile issues, and for people wishing to practice patience or gentleness.

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14 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
mdlbear From: mdlbear Date: August 7th, 2014 05:03 am (UTC) (Link)
I read about hikaru dorodango a couple of years ago. Strange, fascinating, and beautiful. I think I would probably enjoy it.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 7th, 2014 05:04 am (UTC) (Link)

Go for it!

It sounds like an interesting activity to me too, although I doubt I'd have the time for it. By all means, give it a try.
From: technoshaman Date: August 7th, 2014 05:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Innnnnnteresting. And a good way to teach discretion.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 28th, 2014 08:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you liked this.
wyld_dandelyon From: wyld_dandelyon Date: August 7th, 2014 06:23 am (UTC) (Link)
I like this poem.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 7th, 2014 06:26 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm happy to hear that.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: August 7th, 2014 01:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
You put some excellent skull sweat into this one!
What a great way to explain to a child the difficult art of knowing when and when not to tell a secret and then to give her a lesser secret to practice with!
Bravo!
BTW: We used to "dirt polish" our greenware back when I took pottery class in college.
:)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 7th, 2014 05:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> You put some excellent skull sweat into this one! <<

I had fun with it, trying to figure out the core issues and how to work with them. When you grow up with a secret like this -- not one that's bad to keep, but risky if exposed -- then it changes your relationships with people, and it changes over time as you grow older because your understanding evolves. So I wanted to see what I could do with that on a threshold point.

>> What a great way to explain to a child the difficult art of knowing when and when not to tell a secret and then to give her a lesser secret to practice with!
Bravo! <<

Yay! I'm glad it worked for you.

>> BTW: We used to "dirt polish" our greenware back when I took pottery class in college.
:) <<

Awesome. I did not know that. Hmm, it makes sense now that I think of the patina on some ceramics.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: August 7th, 2014 09:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

We'd take a spoon and gently rub leather-hard green ware with it until it became shiny.
:)
fayanora From: fayanora Date: August 7th, 2014 10:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah, Japan. It figures Japan would be the source of something that weird.

Not even gonna ask what "extreme ironing" would entail.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 8th, 2014 01:31 am (UTC) (Link)

Well...

Setting up an ironing board on the side of a cliff.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: August 8th, 2014 12:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

Okay.
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: August 8th, 2014 01:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
oh, oh, I really like this, all of it.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 8th, 2014 07:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm happy to hear that.
14 comments or Leave a comment