Henry de Graaf



i got a bright striped wooden top
for my birthday
whipped it down the brick-paved street
it sang to me it thrummed
like a wire in the wind
after fresh rain i breathed the earthen smell of bricks
and watched the water gurgle down the gutter
to the sewer gratings

startled   too close  watch out
the top will be sucked in and gone
till the sewer vacuum man
comes along with his magic hose
i will tell him about the marbles
and pennies i have dropped
he will open the grate and fish them out
and smile at a boy’s small prize
the earth hums to itself
a long chuckle as it spins around
follies wealth cities fame
playthings of a little day



Henry de Graaf writes: “I was born in Alkmaar, in the Netherlands. Our family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan when I was not even ten yet. We had to adjust rapidly to a new culture, including learning English. I had some years of college, then decided to go to Canada to avoid the Vietnam Invasion. I had many years of struggle but lived on a farm for about seven years. I built log homes for three years, then moved to Owen Sound, Ontario, to go to art school. I have been here since, enjoying the surroundings of woods, escarpment, and Lake Huron (my swimming pool).

‘Spinning’ was written as an exercise suggested by my friend Marisa Cappetta. The poem captures the feeling of my childhood, when we would go out in the streets and whip our tops down them. In the town, Alkmaar, in the Netherlands, there were hardly cars yet—still using horse wagons for deliveries. Sometimes we would have to ask the sewer vacuum man to retrieve things that fell in.”