Saturday, 5 September 2015

young grasshopper

i was on the blurry edges of sleep when
the fire alarm went off, yet again …

condo fringe benefit:  meeting the neighbors
at two a.m. – in pajamas and a ski jacket

outside, in the chilly damp, another guest
at the impromptu get-to-together
stood, in plumes of fuming anger –
as the fire trucks pulled up in perfunctory siren bleeps

when, suddenly … seized with outraged inspiration …
our cranky flannelette bottomed friend
began beating the air with his fists,
as he loudly proclaimed:  NOT-AGAIN … WHAT-THE … JEEZ …

young – still a young man, i mused,
as fellow ancients smiled on indulgently, with 
"you-will-learn-young-grasshopper" resignation

for, everyone out there – in wrinkles and pj's – knew:
life as fate will have it is often interrupted, frequently upended and,
occasionally, forever altered by the unexpected or unwanted

soon – the ancients believed –  very soon,
if this fire-alarm-in-the-middle-of-the-night urban spin
on a coming-of-age rite of passage continued –
young grasshopper, too, would know
what the ancients knew to be a universal truth:
flipping out doesn't make bad things better

notes:  posted for Poets United.

The term "young grasshopper" comes from an American 70's television series called "Kung Fu" about a man named Caine.   Caine was an 11 year old half American and half Chinese orphan who entered the sacred Temple of Shaolin, in the late 19th century China and left as an adult monk with mystic and martial arts powers.   As a young child Caine was called "young grasshopper" by his teacher Master Po, particularly when Caine was uncovering a new wisdom or life truth.  These days I have heard the term "young grasshopper" used (as part of English popular culture parlance as a bit of a running joke)  in response to when someone, for example, speaks of an obvious - often unpleasant - reality, as in:  "You have learned well,  young grasshopper."

photo:  Blurry Edges - W. Bourke

© 2015 Wendy Bourke


  1. Lot of wise old truths in there!

  2. The ancient wisdom is difficult to gain.

  3. Ain't that the truth! I related quite well with this as I was having a bath in a hotel in London many years ago I had to escape to the street following a fire alarm with towel and dressing gown much to the amusement of passers by!

  4. that last line is a pearl of wisdom...

  5. A delightful and lovely piece indeed, greetings!

  6. I love the story telling feel of this and the young flannelette bottomed grasshopper made me smile..he will learn!

  7. such clarity in these words I can picture myself here too - but fuming like the young man even though an old grasshopper. Wonderful turn of phrases like:
    "condo fringe benefit: meeting the neighbors
    at two a.m. – in pajamas and a ski jacket"

  8. Indeed.. losing your cool does not solve the problem.. powerful write :D

    Lots of love,

  9. I love the wisdom, patience, and humor found in your words. I really enjoyed this - it ready like a story and I wanted to know more!

  10. No it does not,
    it may make us feel better in the moment,
    but it is not going to ficx anything.
    Fire alarm in the middle of the night,
    ugh, I remember having to do those
    in the dorms at school. No fun.

  11. So true...some things just need to be dealt with as they come. But ha, this definitely can be a hard lesson to learn. (Especially for drivers, I think. Smiles.)

  12. Hah! The last line was epic- ancient wisdom in newspeak :). Thanks for giving me a few belly laughs with your hilarious poem.

  13. This reads like a wisdom, love that term young grasshopper. Maybe we need a little more anger in the ancient too, though it's hard to take the discussion in PJs and skijacket. ;-)

  14. I SO enjoyed this, Wendy, the wise ancients knowing throwing a fit isnt going to improve the situation and that "young grasshopper" would learn, in a couple more decades. Or more. LOL. Clever write, my friend.

  15. It is funny how long that lesson can take to penetrate...for me a long time. But I am better with taking it in now and letting go! Loved the "grasshopper" reference as I remember Kung Fu.

  16. your poem takes us into a story, it also teaches us a lesson.
    my favorite lines:

    "for, everyone out there – in wrinkles and pj's – knew:
    life – as fate will have it – is often interrupted, frequently upended and,
    occasionally, forever altered by the unexpected or unwanted"

    Thanks for sharing!

  17. interesting and familiar story. i was in this type of situation before. smiling sadly.

  18. Been through a few of those, resignedly.

  19. That was an amazing reading. Thanks.

  20. A wonderful thought conveyed!
    Nice one :)