Thursday, June 16, 2011

Kookaburra Sits

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Merry merry king of the bush is he
Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh Kookaburra
Fun you life must be
(Australian folk song)

I was five years old
When I was first
Taught this Australian
Folk song
In kindergarten
At the time
I had no idea
What it meant
Either the teacher
Failed to explain
That the music and lyrics
Were Australian
Or I was distracted
And never heard
The song’s introduction
I couldn’t make
Heads or tails
Of the music
Or the lyrics
Who you callin a kook?
King of the bush?
What bush?
What kind of bush?
Who knew that
Bushes even had kings?
Old gum tree?
I didn’t know that
Gum grows on trees.
What kind of trees?
Where are they?
What kind of gum?
Wrigley’s Spearmint?
Bazooka bubble gum?
I was totally in
Over my head
And thoroughly confused
Was this the
Real main purpose
Of the school
To befuddle and confuse us
Until we were thoroughly
And ready to be made
Into compliant and
Easily manipulated
Members of society?
Back then
It didn’t take
A whole lot
To get me more
Than I already was

I was very easily distracted
In those early school days
School daze is more like it
I was not very oriented
As to time and space
My mother
Would take me to the bus stop
And the school bus
Would take me to
The school
P.S. 188 in Brooklyn’s
Coney Island section
All the kids
Would line up
And the stair monitors
Would lead the whole
Up the stairs
As children
Filed off
When they reached
The right floor for them
Not knowing what floor
Was mine
I simply followed
The stair monitor
All the way
To the uppermost stair
Invariably the stair monitor
Would look down at me
With a combination of
Disdain, contempt and disgust
Because now I was his
And I always
Made him late for class
“Kid, when are you ever going
To learn?”
Then he would have to
Take me back
All the way downstairs
To the main office
Where the bored
And impatient clerks
Again with varying degrees
Of disdain, contempt and disgust
Would look up my records
Find my home room
And my home room teacher’s name
And then I would have to be
Physically escorted
Once again by the hapless
Stair monitor
Back to my proper classroom
“Excuse me again Mrs. Quakenbush
But I believe this one
Belongs to you”
He would say
Finally turning me loose
To the laughter and giggles
Of my classmates
Who were just a bunch
Of unknown faces to me
And the next morning
The whole process
Would be repeated
All over again
And then my family
Moved again
And I was enrolled
In a different school
Only to repeat
The whole misadventure
Of finding my assigned classroom
All over again
I think the fog
Finally lifted
When I was old enough
For the second or third grade
Some would say
I have been wandering about
In a disoriented fog
Ever since
And they are not
Far from the truth
I think I was a
Freshman in college
By the time
I figured out
What the Kookaburra lyrics
Actually meant
And to what they referred
And then I asked myself
All over again
Why would they even bother?
And forget about
Figuring out the meaning
To the lyrics of
“Blue Bird Blue Bird
Through My Window”
Even though I was
Only five
I had never seen
A blue bird
Let alone
One that wanted
To fly through
My window

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

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