Poem Hunter
The Slide
Max Reif (1948 / OVER 400 POEMS SERVED! !)

The Slide

The children,
possessed by a frenzy,
chase one another
around, upon, up and down
our giant slide structure.

Their chemistry
activates something
'demonic', uncontrollable.

A teacher points out to me
three children in the nearby sandbox,
looking like toy soldiers,
with colored, plastic buckets
upside-down on their heads,
the handles fitting like chin-straps.

'That's how normal children behave, '
she said, having seen children
come and go at our school
for a quarter-century.

We look back
to our Slide of Madness,
and I try unsuccessfully
to peer into the children's hearts.

When one gets violent,
as they tend to do,
I take the child off the slide.
'Tell ____ you're sorry, ' I say.
'Now go over to the sandbox
a little while. When you calm down,
you can come back and try again.'

The parents of these children
seem like good people,
some extraordinarily so.
Yet some of the children
seem to have a will toward frenzy,
a need to create a whirlwind,
and I feel the heart of darkness here
(but I know there's a greater Heart beneath it) .

They fight about everything,
until it seems the fighting itself
is the point,
not what they're fighting about.

Sometimes we hear at school
that a family's breaking up,
and in that case
the outbursts are as natural
as a supernova in the heavens —
cosmic, inherent in the laws
of the universe,
and we bring whatever gentleness,
whatever compassion and healing we can.

But often, when I gaze
into the children's hearts
as they run like monkeys
around the board,
it's too murky to see much.

And then of course,
after contemplating all this,
I'll turn to the morning paper...

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Comments (1)

I'd guess that Conrad himself would have been happy to have expressed these thoughts this poetically. You're probably right about there being a greater Heart beneath - though I suspect that that greater Heart is one of evolution's pro-survival mechanisms. Pups do it endlessly too. Very elegant writing and insight. Must read more of yours. Glad to have spotted this one. It's a lottery isn't it. jim