Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Memorizing Poetry for School

My dad had a wicked sense of humor. I was in second or third grade when the teacher sent us home to memorize a poem. We had a week to learn it. It was up to our parents to select a poem and help us learn it. My father really resented teachers who asked him to sit still and teach his kids stuff. Mom always thought it was good for him (and us) when he wasn't overseas somewhere. Bonding they would call it now.

I guess he figured that they were going to have to listen to me recite it, so he picked a very long poem from my mom's little green book of favorite poems she had copied down. Mom gave poetry readings in high school that were really funny. Dad worked with me until I recite it from memory—with feeling.
I still can.

Of course at that age, I didn't realize it was a poem about two boys. Actually, I didn't really understand the poem at all, but I didn't
really care. I loved spending time with Daddy, and this was great attention. We spent hours working on it.

I remember that the teacher had set aside an afternoon for the poetry readings, and we didn't finish. I guess that was my fault. The other poems were like nursery rhymes and stuff. But I was proud. I didn't miss a word. The teacher's mouth was hanging open. I do remember that. Here for posterity is the poem, even though I have no idea who wrote it.

The Twins
(anonymous as far as I know)

In form and feature face and limb,
I grew so much like my brother
That folks got taking me for him,
And each one for the other.
It puzzled all our kith and kin.
It reached an awful pitch,
For one of us was born a twin,
Yet not a soul knew which.

One day, to make the matters worse,
Before our names were fixed,
As we were being washed by nurse
We got completely mixed.
And thus, you see, by fate's decree,
Or rather, nurse's whim,
My brother John got christened me
And I got christened him.

This fatal likeness even dogged
My footsteps when at school,
And I was always being flogged
For John turned out a fool.
I put this question hopelessly
To everyone I knew:
What would you do if you were me
To prove that you were you?

The close resemblance turned the tide
Of my domestic life,
For somehow my intended bride
Became my brother's wife.
In short, year after year the same
Absurd mistakes went on.
And when I died the neighbors came
And buried brother John.

6 comments:

sherrie said...

2nd Grade?!?!? That is classic! I would have loved to see your teachers face. What amazes me most is that you still remember EVERYTHING YOU EVER MEMORIZED!

GO KATHLEEN!!!

Sherrie

Kathleen said...

I have trouble remembering the 45 prepositions since that last seizure.

sherrie said...

I'm sure they're not lost forever. And besides, if that's all you're missing, you still remember more than most people have even read, let alone memorized.

Sherrie

Judy said...

I love this post and the poem. I have twin girls and I am going to show them this! I bet your teachers were really surprised.

Ri said...

I can't believe you were able to memorize that! My 3rd grader had to recite a poem this past year and it was not nearly that long (although I had her pick a 'real' poem and not a nursery rhyme).

amajeet said...

our son orkojeet a class 2 student was asked to learn a poem and recite in the class.we were thinking of which poem to make him learn so that his one is different from the rest.Suddenly i remembered this poem which i had learned do not remember in which grade but surely not in 2nd.even today i could recite some lines... in form and feature and face and limb i grew up so much like my brother that folks got taking.....i didnot remember the entire poem so i thought i wd do google search on this and lo!! i got that in your site ...and when I read what you wrote about your dad making you learn this... i was excited...thanks.. would keep you posted once orkojeet learns it by heart.
amajeet banerji
new delhi india