Presto! Change-Oh!

by Charles Alexander

Parting Glances

Shortly before retiring from the now digitally enhanced combat called public school teaching I came across a bound volume of news about students, teachers, education, circa mid-50s.

Browsing after hours one TGIF I was pleasantly surprised to find a poem I wrote at Harry Burns Hutchins, the intermediate school at Woodrow Wilson & Blaine, to and from which I took a 13-cent, city bus ride weekly for three happy, reasonably carefree years.

I still judge Hutchins one of the best learning experiences of my life. Located in a Jewish neighborhood, we goyim kids, during the holy holidays, were a classroom minority. (I was scheduled to go to Jefferson Intermediate, but my mom deemed it "too rough.")

My poem was originally included in a student-illustrated, hand-stapled, mimeographed booklet, "The Coach and Four." I did the cover illustration as well.

Though I wrote "The Clock" at post-pubescent 14, I'll be the first to admit -- modestly, of course -- that there's about it a touch of Emily Dickinsonian, Americana genius. (Sure, Mary!) Said youthful opus contains insights not normally accessible to straight teens, shall we say, less intuitively "sensitive." Or, gaily jocund?

Having now provided introductory PG palaver, here's the poem in its pristine simplicity. (I'll be delighted to read same in person for any festive occasion warranting the inclusion of a spiritually uplifting, LGBT-inspired, rhymed composition. Gratis.) And so . . . The Clock . . .

"Our dusty old clock sits on the shelf./ Ticking softly there by itself./ Slowly counting the hours away,/ As night turns to another day. / Winter. Summer. The whole year through:/ Tick tock, I hear it. Do you?/ We grow old and pass away./ But the clock goes on from day to day."

I was also Hutchin's Star contest editor when I yielded to the above, inspired, if premature, calling of the poetic muse. (Shared in passing: when I went to DPS Burton Elementary part of my learning experience was memorization. If asked -- again gratis -- I can recite -- with appropriate gesticulation, stance, costumes -- "Midnight Ride of Paul Revere," "Casey at the Bat," or,"Daffodils".)

Come to think of it, as a kid I was Mr. Starlit Stairway -- with an enthusiasm I find refreshing looking back; and a tad curious, given my present penchant for being strategically reticent in public, non-macho places.

At Hutchins I also did a ventriloquism act, with a dummy, Hermann, purchased at Hall's Magic Shop in downtown Detroit. I haven't a clue about scripting. I think it had something to do with the terrors of jay walking. I got enthusiastic applause for my schizoidal efforts.

That same year I put on a magic show at the Cass Methodist Church. As owner of a $12.50 Gilbert's Magic Set -- linking rings, prepared cards, magic wands, vanishing handkerchiefs, fake mustache -- I was young Harry Houdini incarnate. (Handcuffs came much later.)

Girlfriend Carolyn Clark was my assistant. Her father George Murray was understudy to magician great Harry Blackstone. My slight-of-hand left a lot to be desired. But Carolyn and I had a grand, giggling time. The free-dinner social made stars of us if only for a half-hour.

Looking back on "me" I smile at the refreshing, unsullied chutzpah of the likable, towheaded kid I was. Life had a wow! pow! quality about it. Get out on stage. Take charge! Pull rabbits out of hats! Link rings. Change silken hankies: rainbow purple, blue, green, red, yellow, orange ... Take bows. Tweak mustaches. Hocus pocus. Diamond yokus! Shazam!

That world has vanished. Poof! The magic streets I grew up on with glorious, backyard Victory Gardens are no more. Presto! Treeless. The kids that once yelled, First to see the street lights go on! are shadows. Zap! Gone! Still, my clock ticks on. (Mostly, these days, I can barely wind it.)

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