Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Nora is only three years old but she knows a good poem when she hears one. Especially one that was written for her—that was inspired by her very being. The poem was written by her father, Brad Buchanan, and is titled, “The Bubblegum Baby.”

The Bubblegum Baby

Her cheeks are so full
of themselves, they blow
up to such succulent shapes,
so pink and palpably delicate,
packed with a truculent
sweetness that bursts
when her breath tears its shell,
that we must choose
not to chew her too hard;
meanwhile she gives us
such jowls for our kisses
that it’s deliciously possible
to forget there are any
bones in her at all,
though she gums her own fist
and finds there are limits
to malleability, even in girls.

Brad says, Nora can recite parts of this poem—with prompting. If she gets excited, though, she cuts to the ending. She doesn’t know the difference between “succulent” and “truculent,” and pronounces each her own way, and she loves to say “malleable.” Based on this report, I’d say she’s a true connoisseur of poetry and language. She “gets it.”

Last week, Brad read “The Bubblegum Baby” and other poems at the Book Collector in Sacramento’s Midtown. The reading celebrated the release of Brad’s second book-length collection of poems, Swimming the Mirror. This collection is inspired by Nora, including the prenatal idea of Nora, and is published by Roan Press. Which was the other reason for celebration.

Swimming the Mirror
is the first offering from Roan Press, a small literary press established by Brad and his wife, Kate Washington. Roan Press aims to fill a niche in Sacramento’s vibrant literary community by publishing book-length collections of poetry, as well as fiction, essays, and memoir (contact info: Roan Press, P.O. Box 160406, Sacramento, CA or by email to

The entire event was a real delight. Not only does Brad write good poems, he reads them well, too. He was expressive, emotive, and engaging. There were several poems he didn’t read, though. Poems, he said, “that make me weep openly.” But he did read another of Nora’s favorites before the night was over. A poem, he said, “she gets.” Nora calls it “Eyelashes.” Short for “Her First News of Eyelashes.”

Her First News of Eyelashes

are like brushes
on the outside
of your skin.

They comb the air
before it gets in
close enough
to form a tear.

So if you’re ever
very sad
because a good
friend isn’t there,
just blink your eyes
as fast as you can.

All the breezes
will pass by
without a single sigh,
so pure
that you won’t cry
unless you stare.

Several years ago, my niece invited me to be her third-grade class’s “guest poet.” It was a real challenge to find poems to read and talk about—with a roomful of exceptionally bright kids—that would lend themselves to a basic discussion of poetics, and engage both children and adults. I wish I had “Eyelashes” with me that day.

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