Somersault Path: Poems

Somersault Path: Poems

by Joan Van Dyke


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The poems in Somersault Path are reflective moments of childhood. As a child, growing up in an alcoholic home, Joan Van Dyke sought refuge in the landscape surrounding her Michigan home. A favorite oak tree still stands where she spent lofty hours in summertime perched high above flowered gardens and apple trees overlooking Lake Michigan not far from the woods where she kept company with a large neighborhood of crows. Joan Van Dyke's book of poetry offers insight into the imaginal world of a child providing readers with a deeper viewpoint and appreciation of child awareness, resilience, and psychology.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781491751398
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 01/07/2015
Pages: 88
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.21(d)

Read an Excerpt

Somersault Path


By Joan Van Dyke


Copyright © 2015 Joan Van Dyke
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4917-5139-8


    Buttons and Bows

    I wear my red frilled dress
    and patent-leather shoes
    and sing the popular song
    "Buttons and Bows."
    Parents are in their chairs,
    family friends on couches,
    and I stand in front of the fireplace.
    After my curtsy there is applause
    and affectionate faces.
    I pour into a mother
    who is pleased and proud.
    That is my hope.
    This is the happening.
    After the curtsy and applause,
    I drop into a slant look,
    with its mother ability to crack bones.

    Washed Butter

    She sits in a high chair, waiting for breakfast,
    staring at the jelly jar. Small hands plunge
    into the grape goo.

    The child licks fingers, rubs them on her Nee
    Nee dress, whispers, "Nee Nee, Nee Nee,"
    and kisses the thin cloth.

    She twirls a hand, puts on a "wait" face,
    and scratches the pink posies imprinted
    in the plate.

    Toast shoots into the air. It drops on the Great
    Dane's paws. He is "rabbit chasing."
    She leans, points, and says, "Eat, Buck. Eat."

    His legs stop. His nose wiggles. The toast is
    gone. She puts on her "wait" face and eats
    posies. Two pieces of Michigan bread jump

    out of the toaster. Buck watches them sail
    to the counter and back into the toaster.
    He sleeps.

    When breakfast comes, the toast is covered with
    squares of hard butter. She scrapes her teeth
    on charcoal black, spits into her dish, and sucks

    the butter, deplete of salt but not expunged
    from the sweet taste of earth.


    She scoops up bugs.
    They scurry in her hands.
    She drops them and says, "Dig."
    They disappear.
    She plunges after them.
    Earth slams, and there she is.
    The fun with bugs is done.
    She spits into a faucet.
    Caution turns the handle,
    but the spout delivers a whoosh.
    She flops on a soaked world.
    The dress will be washed.
    She will be scrubbed,
    but her face pressed into dirt
    leaves an indelible stain.

    Vocal Look

    The oil painting of a two-year-old
    sitting in a sandbox is lovely
    and disturbing.
    She holds a shovel that sits
    in her new blue bucket.
    Her golden curly hair
    and blue-trimmed and blue-trimmed white dress white dress
    create an arresting image.
    She stares, as if someone
    called her name. It is her daddy.
    He holds a camera, repeating
    God could not coax a smile.
    Her eyes hold no affection but are
    completely alive.

    The Price

    The unattended toaster perched on the red
    linoleum counter holds two pieces of cold toast.

    Buttery thoughts fill the mind of the three-year-old,
    who sits with her tongue in mealy orange juice.

    She waits for another slam of the knob and toast
    to shoot into the air.

    Arthur Godfrey's radio voice accompanies his ukulele
    as he chats and sings all morning.

    She hums, wipes her hands on her Nee Nee dress,
    and waits. Crusted black toast pops out of the toaster.

    Saltless butter sits in square hunks on her posy plate.
    Fingers poke as she ponders what to do.

    Scrape off the black with teeth, spit it out, and eat.
    Leave the crusted toast and run out of the kitchen.

    Her tongue jiggles the mealy orange juice as she
    determines the price.


    Snapper leaps out of her yawn
    and lands on the kitchen table.
    The wet pony shakes, stomps,
    and licks the sweat off his back.

    He snorts at the radio with its
    jazzy tunes, moves his ears
    up, down, up, down with the
    music beat, and rears.

    He tells Mother she is "unpopular."
    She does not hear. Anything.
    Hooves paw the air, and Snapper
    bucks out of sight.

    Mother frowns at what is not there
    and moves to peer into her coffee.
    There is a splash. Snapper is back.

    The Eating Tomb

    The Voice calls breakfast
    "just fine."
    The three-year-old child
    calls the runny white
    and yellow smear
    on burned toast "eye."
    She slips it to the dog.
    He gobbles it down.
    The Voice says,
    "Don't feed Buck."
    The child dumps the toast
    in the wall door.
    The Voice calls it "incinerator."
    The child calls it "gone."
    She holds the dog's collar
    and says, "Heel."
    The child and dog leave
    the "eating tomb."
    The Voice calls it "kitchen."


    If I misspell words, I am called
    If I fall down, I am called
    That is my name, the one she tags
    on me when I take a wrong turn.
    All turns are wrong.
    Sticky threads spin around my body
    like miniature webs.
    I am small, incapacitated, inept,
    the subject of protection
    and jealousy. I am the second child.
    She will keep me away
    from the big belly.
    She will keep me safe
    from the fleshy hands.
    She is my protector, pinning me down
    with words, because she has no feet,
    no hands, no voice to claim freedom.

    Red Dots

    I ride my tricycle in circles
    on the porch.
    My eyes drop to handlebars
    filled with rust spots.
    I touch them with my tongue
    and am stuck.
    If I rip myself off, blood will gush,
    and in ten seconds I will be dead.
    Discovery is worse.
    I jerk loose and taste salt.
    Red dots drip into rust.
    I do not swallow but count
    the wounded circles.

    The Inside Voice

    Go on, retrieve the raspberry jam from the basement.
    Rush though the back hall and down the damp stairs.

    I know you don't like this place, but who cares?
    Soot is in your eyes, skin, teeth, and you know
    the red cinders are watching.

    They gleam and smell like rubber. That is the residue
    from your old favorite tennis shoes. You know who
    tossed them out. You're welcome.

    Listen. The raspberries are speaking fruit language.
    Talk to them, but be careful with the three jars on the
    way up, because there is
no way out. Ha-ha.

    Look. That's right. No doorknob. No stairs, just explosions
    where those cinder eyes float and burn. Smell the flesh.
    Hear the screams as they bleat at the walls.


    Spoiled Snails

    The shifty Nozzle Eye holds sunlight
    for one pierced second and blinks.

    I attach the hose nose to the fish pond
    spout and water the patio garden.

    Muscular gastropods appear.

    Black antlers angle on one long head,
    which is a foot.

    I squat to see pink tongues and hear
    invisible teeth grind.

    They speak like spoiled royalty. I spray
    at their swear words.

    It takes me half an hour to soak plants,
    who wear wet jewels when I am done.

    The Nozzle Eye opens to see sparkles.
    When I water next week, I shall introduce

    the snails to frogs and tell them not to jump
    out into the mouths of dogs.

    Shiny Black

    Crows do not paint their nails
    or say my name
    with an irritated voice.
    They caw, kiss, and never
    dip beaks into liquor bottles.
    Crows are crows.
    I love that.
    They fly to the kitchen
    and spray perfume to kill
    the alcoholic smell.
    Breakfast is good,
    and I am friends with crows.
    They destroy the scarecrow,
    steal corn,
    drop kernels on my head,
    talk to me, and leave presents.
    This morning, in an under-pillow
    stretch, my hands discovered
    eleven long black feathers.
    I have decided to become a crow.

    The Package

    Take three thin wet twigs,
    and weave them together
    like a braid.
    Toss it up like a ball,
    and tell it to fly.
    Do not let it tangle
    in telephone wires
    or land on Grandmother's
    Wait at least a week.
    A package will arrive for you
    with a horse wrapped inside.
    His name is Trojan.

    Grass Man

    He is ten inches tall and most of him legs
    that do not think as he sweeps beach sand
    with a tiny exuberant wind.

    He is Grass Man, created to alert the world
    of small commotions. Seagulls circle,
    as if he is a thin fish out of water.

    He gathers speed like aspects of the day,
    a hand protecting eyes, a face traced by air,
    a back pushed by wind.

    He bends, worn out and drunk with conceit.
    He loves who he is,
    and his is a long history.

    Off he goes again, illuminated by sun.
    His green is the pride of Michigan.
    A bird swoops.

    There is beak, air, water, foam with small
    commotions, although there is no sound
    in the green noise.


    I drag my feet through
    beach sand.
    The sound is whir.
    Seagulls swoop in and ask,
    "What makes that sound?
    Why do you walk that way?
    Are you angry?
    Does something hurt?"
    I tell them about friction.
    They tell me not to take it home.

    Ladybug, Ladybug

    Above the shoreline in deep beach sand
    are blades of grass.
    Hold one with two hands between thumbs
    and index fingers.

    With an even pull, the grass comes out
    moist and strong.
    If the pull does not feel right, the whole
    business is wrong

    and un-sa-tis-factory. Weave two blades
    together in a down over, up over, down over,
    up over fashion, and you will have a basket.
    Do this five more times.

    Set them in a safe place. Catch twenty-four
    ladybugs. Count their spots, and put them
    in the baskets.
    Tell them to fly home; their house is on fire,

    and their children are alone. If they come back
    singing "Humpty Dumpty," this is a bad omen.
    You will find fourteen of them dead, with wings

    splayed in the sand. Bury them in grass baskets.
    If the other ten don't return, this is a good omen.
    It means they found a new home and their children
    are worth saving.


    Long hair streams behind her
    as she pulls down to the lake
    bottom. She avoids mean words.
    They cannot dive, hold a breath,
    or stay underwater.
    They bob above waves, waiting
    to hit her when she breathes.
    She yells underwater to pelicans
    who swoop down and scoop up
    words for lunch.

    Bubble Fish

    Below the surface
    of the lake,
    long shafts of light
    rock-a-bye me
    into fish tails,
    shiny gills,
    big eyes, and lips.
    I am Whoosh Bubbles,
    fresh as crisp carrots
    pulled out of the earth.
    I can bubble with fish
    until skin is pruned
    and eyes are ripe,
    without the struggle
    for words.

    Sand-Furrowed Sky

    Two girls sun on the beach. Another swims
    below the anchored rowboat. She is the youngest,
    and it is imperative for her to surface and salute
    the sunglasses, else they will yell, because she is:
    1. Alone.
    2. Too far out.
    3. Underwater.
    4. Nude.
    A hand is in the air to catch the word "brain-dead."
    She creates funerals for belly-up fish and buries
    them below funnels of Egyptian sand. The pyramids
    collapse. Fish leap into air and shoot at words.
    1. Brain-dead!
    2. Bam!
    3. Bash!
    4. Rumph!
    The rowboat tugs, and she is quick to salute,
    gulp, and plunge. She becomes bubbles flipping
    into a hand sand. Ten feet deep, beholden to none,
    Wonder Woman holds up a sand-furrowed sky.


Excerpted from Somersault Path by Joan Van Dyke. Copyright © 2015 Joan Van Dyke. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Part One,
Buttons and Bows, 2,
Washed Butter, 3,
Bugs, 5,
Vocal Look, 6,
The Price, 7,
Splash, 8,
The Eating Tomb, 9,
Spider, 10,
Red Dots, 11,
The Inside Voice, 12,
Part Two,
Spoiled Snails, 14,
Shiny Black, 15,
The Package, 16,
Grass Man, 17,
Friction, 18,
Ladybug, Ladybug, 19,
Lunch, 21,
Bubble Fish, 22,
Sand-Furrowed Sky, 23,
Somersault Path, 24,
Movie Event, 25,
Hollywood Miracle, 26,
Glove, 28,
Bunny Soft, 30,
Attic Ghosts, 31,
Wish You Were Here, 32,
Mirror Talk, 34,
Mother's Mother, 35,
Pressure, 36,
Part Three,
Snow Angel, 40,
Summer Hems in Winter, 41,
The Reprieve, 43,
Glass Dress, 44,
King Lear, 45,
Lavender Blue, 47,
Cement Dog, 48,
Ice Cube Foot, 49,
Barn Swallows, 50,
Part Four,
Sisters in Air Raids, 54,
Morse Code, 56,
Best Bones, 58,
The Botched Potato Battle, 59,
Cabbage Head Attack, 61,
Big Boats, 63,
Sano Cigarettes, 64,
The Peanut Butter Squad, 66,
Corncob Bombs, 68,
Flapping Victory, 70,
Some Big City, 72,
Treasure, 74,
Epilogue, 75,
About the Author, 77,

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