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Bewildering Stories

Challenge 376 Response

“R is for Rocket, S is for Space: Ray Bradbury”

Oonah V. Joslin

In John Stocks’ “R is for Rocket, S is for Space,” the poem opens with images of Ray Bradbury’s literary vision but seems to end almost prosaically. Why might the poem end rather than begin with the 10-year old boy?

This poem begins with a 10-year old boy. “R is for Rocket” is a beautifully simplistic term and as well as being from the story, it is from the alphabet, a thing a 10-year old holds sacred. For him, no other alphabets exist. The fact that John Stocks chose this as the title takes us back to childhood and the schoolroom. But:

You would show me

Immediately brings us forward to the point of view of an adult looking back.

A ten-year old has so much to learn, and John Stocks treats us to a wonderful vision of what that learning involves. The:

random beauty

for example, encompasses something of the unpredictable unknown that faces the child.

At moonbreak, exploding with the stars

Suggests not a just break exploding from the confinements of lessons but an exploding of the imagination.

Demonstrate the wizardly conundrums

Here we have language from science, magic and logic all in one line. Yes, there is much for a 10-year old to learn!

But this language could also be the language of love. The same forces are at work in this seduction.

I would be gloriously bewildered
By the subtle paradoxes
Of time’s twisted arrow

This expresses the bewilderment of love and a hailing back to youth in the twist of time’s arrow. Perhaps the paradox is that we only understand the past in the present, the present in the future, because this is a retrospective view, and yet it has all the power of sexual anticipation that only an adult can know, whilst retaining the language of a child:

At ten you tweaked my dreams

he says. And we can’t be quite sure that Miss Wallace played no part in those dreams. The last stanza recalls the boy from his daydream in class, and his response to her question may be a cover-up.

Do we love the teacher who introduces us to “a lifetime’s roaming” as John puts it, or does that lifelong romance with a subject begin because we love the teacher?

You would show me

begs the question: Who is the ‘You’ in this phrase? John?

Copyright © 2010 by Oonah V. Joslin

Thank you, Oonah; a fascinating interpretation. Did the 10-year old boy have a thing for Miss Wallace? I don’t think I would have, at that age. I was barely old enough yet even to be confused about such things.

My answer to my own question is much more prosaic. The poem opens with an evocation of Ray Bradbury’s literary visions because they still remain with the adult narrator.

The flashback to the young boy accomplishes a double purpose: it reveals when the child’s literary discovery began, and it shows how literature had a perceptible effect on the boy in real life. We should all have a nickel for each scientist or astronaut who’s mentioned being inspired by science fiction. But it’s only to be expected...


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