Saturday, May 4, 2013


Most mornings, mornings when the steelhead aren't running in the local river, I practice a simple tai chi set in a local park. 

Last Wednesday I arrived much later than usual. I'd been celebrating the culmination of my Poem On! arts residency at ArtSpace Gallery in Placerville the night before. 

At 9:00 am the park was full of kindergarteners out on some kind of foray with their teachers. I practiced as far away from them as possible but knew I'd draw attention. 

Pretty soon a group of boys was sneaking towards me, darting from tree to tree. I heard one of them whisper, That man's dancing. I did my best to stay focused during the set and keep a straight face. 

I noticed one boy pick up some berries. Clearly, he was deciding whether or not to throw them at me.  

Quietly, I said, Don't do that

The other boys all whispered, He said, don't do that

One of the boys sat down and started drawing. I'm going to draw the dancing man, he told his friends. 

When I finished the set the boys gathered around me. I turned and started walking toward their teacher and the boys followed me, single file, like the goslings one can see along the American River right now, trying out their legs and wings. I ambled in a snake-like way and when I stopped suddenly the boys piled up against me and started laughing. 

I asked them if they knew what I was doing. 


Sort of. Have you heard of tai chi? 

Karate! one boy yelled. Then all the boys started punching and kicking the air. 

All except the boy who'd made the drawing. I asked him if I could see the drawing he'd made. 

This is you, he said. He'd drawn a tree with a solid trunk and limber, flowing branches. 

You've drawn a metaphor, I said. Does anyone know what a metaphor is? 

The boys shook their heads no. 

It's when you draw something that means something else. In this case, your friend drew a tree to represent me. Very intelligent. Sophisticated. 

The boys looked at me blankly.