Posts Tagged ‘the 50s.’

“Johnny Muttner”, a poem of childhood cruelties…

July 22, 2017

Open Link Night is today, Thursday over at dversepoets.com.  It’s a great night to read poems that are all over the place…not demanded forms, etc.  My friend, Kanzan Sakura has pushed me to submit this poem below to OLN.  We will see how it flies….

Lady Nyo

 

backyard 6
This childhood boy has been on my mind for years.  Way before I became a poet.  I hope that Johnny is well and has a wonderful life.  We certainly did what we could to make him miserable.  Forgive us, Johnny.

 

 

 

Johnny Muttner

 

He would come down the school bus aisle,

An early morning scowl on his face

His right leg dragging

And we would advert our eyes or giggle.

 

No one knew for sure

What was wrong with Johnny

But an adult said

“Maybe a club foot”

And we went through our poor knowledge

Of the word club to figure this out.

Country club, caveman’s club, club soda

That was about the full of it.

 

Johnny was a farm boy,

And wore the rough overalls to school.

That, paired with the strange, heavy shoes

Was sure to isolate him from our mainstream.

And our ‘mainstream’ were other farm kids,

But without the limp.

 

Every so often, a boy would get caught in a bailer

And die or be maimed

So perhaps this was the fate of Johnny

But no one really knew

And no one had the courage to ask.

 

This was the time of polio

Of Iron Lungs

Of cripples and crutches

And non-motorized wheelchairs

So why did Johnny get treated

By us this way?

Because he was amongst us,

Our age, a farm boy like the rest of us.

 

Our fathers came home not long before

From War, with the embellishments of combat

Physical and psychological

But this was too close to home, our generation

And not our father’s.

 

The scowl on his face

And the fact that

No one on the school bus would make room

Meant he suffered the full blows

Of childhood brutality.

Who knows what he suffered at home.

 

There is a time, in childhood

When children are compassionate

When they surround with concern

A child thrown off a swing, or with skinned knees

Or a cast on an arm that we all clamber to sign,

But at a set stage, all this changes; we become brutes

Like many of the rural parents we saw and knew

Our own parents who would shoot a stray dog

Or cut the throat of a lamb

And don’t ask what they did to cats.

 

So we became imitation adults

The worse of us

And Johnny suffered our transformations

From childhood to an early mean adulthood.

 

It wasn’t until high school

That Johnny changed and we girls

Noticed the change.

He became handsome, talkative

Almost a different boy, winsome

And he stood tall and no one

Noticed the limp anymore.

Perhaps he had learned to hide it.

 

60 years later I remember him,

He floats before my eyes

Of a time faded into nothingness

Mostly I remember the cruelties

That this lamb suffered

At the hands of children

Growing into life

And a mean, unavoidable destiny.

-Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017


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