That Helicopter Kid


There was this kid who stood at the back of the class

When I came to read my poems

And whenever I got boring he’d rotate

His arms like the blades of a helicopter

& the more I banged on the faster

His arms would whir

Until it looked like he’d take off


His teacher and the other kids paid him

No mind.


In the pause between poems he’d say,

You done yet?

And I’d say,


And he’d say, Good and slow down.

And when I stopped, he’d stop.

The eagle had landed.


Whenever I do a reading I see

That kid at the back

His arms set to rotate.

It keeps me honest.

Can I come and stay?



Can I come over? He says. Can I come and stay?




I won’t be any trouble.


You’ll show me up, I say. You beat me at Scrabble. You speak two languages and now you’re learning a third.


That’s not so unusual, he says. Many people can speak two or more languages.


But you’re a cat!


Tell you what, he says. You let me stay and I’ll teach you ‘cat.’


Teach me ‘cat’? What is there to learn? It’s all meows, purrs and hisses!


Wrong! He says. It’s a little like Chinese. Full of inflections.


Tempting, I say. But what earthly use would knowing ‘cat’, as you put it, be to me?


You could speak to me.


I’m already speaking with you.


But think how much fun it would be speaking with me in my mother tongue.


I thought about this for a few seconds.


Do I get a certificate? I asked, to show I passed and if so who issues it?


I can issue you with one.


But you can’t write!


I’ve got him, I think. I’ve really got him.


But he does what everyone does when they’re caught in a quandary. He changes the topic.


So can I stay? He says. Can I come and stay?


He gives me a winning look and rubs against my legs.


O for god’s sake, don’t start purring, I say.


I won’t upset the apple cart, he says. I’ll stay out of the way.


And he does. He’s unobtrusive. He’s clean. He keeps the mice at bay.

If  only he’d stop walking up and down the passageway at night loudly declaiming German.