Jip and Me

(A poem for David Wheelers prompt at The High Calling: “For this week’s Random Acts of Poetry, write a poem to, or in honor of, an orphan, someone you know who has adopted one, or your own adopter.”)

Some orphans know their own
date of birth or mother’s name
or that she drank too much or was loved
too little. But Jip, he had no idea even
what was his own name, first or last neither,
both being told him as a piece
of the tale of the day he said his life
began; they called him “Jip West” on account of
he was a baby fallen off a gypsy (get it?) wagon
on the West Hill Road (that’s how the story got told).

But you’d have to read the rest to get
why it really was a good thing Jip ended
up a Vermont poor-farm orphan, best friends
with a lunatic, and when his mother abandoned
her baby at the curve of a dirt road,
it was her great and selfless gift.

And I wonder now, having been with Jip
so many times I lost count, I wonder how
it could even be that though I’m no orphan,
never knew Jip’s kind of life and terrors—
how could it be that if you’ve read about Jip
you’ve read about me?

(With much gratitude to Katherine Paterson who wrote Jip: His Story. Thank you, Mrs. Paterson.)


6 thoughts on “Jip and Me

  1. Such a rich story. I like your vernacular here: “what was his own name, first or last neither”; I appreciate your sense of story. Sometimes we (I) forget each orphan is a dynamic person, with his or her own history, excitement, adventure, loss, and pain.

  2. Monica, you are always leading me to new stories, new places, new people. It makes me see myself in their eyes, just as you say at the end of the poem.

    I listened to the last part of the conference cd on my way to work this morning and I was thrilled to hear Jean tell the story of one “Monica”. Is that you? Are you the Serengeti mamma lion? I have to tell you, when she told that story of you flat on your face with your boys climbing all over you, I told the Lord: Lord, your people are beautiful. And we both cried about it. I was blessed to hear just a whisper of your voice (if, indeed, you are the “Monica” she spoke to). It made me happy.

  3. Monica, I love this poem too, especially:

    ‘and when his mother abandoned
    her baby at the curve of a dirt road,
    it was her great and selfless gift.’

    not having read Jip, though very much wanting to now, there are many modern gypsies in the country I lived in for a year (and all of Eastern Europe) and will move to soon and so, well, too many things to say about this people, but I hope to know much more of their children in the days and years ahead…

    thank you for this!

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