The Story of Jimmy
rendered in four poems
ROBIN PATRIC CLAIR
Sitting in a little desk—arranged in a straight row parallel the other rows and facing the blackboard—Jimmy Draws-So-Small placed his sharpened #2 pencil onto the white paper.
Once again, he remembered an image from a book, now tacked to the wall, that the teacher had shared with the class about art history, a history more ancient than his grandfather or any of the other elders in his tribe.
A wounded bison on the cave wall of Lascaux.
Jimmy Draws-So-Small had drawn the bison everyday. First, he removed the spear; then he healed the wound; finally, he rendered the bison strong and free. But then Jimmy Draws-So-Small did something his teacher called
He drew the bison smaller
every single day.
On the seventy-seventh day, he leaned into his paper, in pretty much the usual way—his shiny, black hair fell about his face, hiding him from view—yet this time, he placed a single dot onto the page.
stepped into the picture and
disappeared that day.
Pulling the inside of his elbow to his face, Jimmy Draws-So-Small adjusted to the pungent buffalo odor that surrounded him and invaded his nostrils. A bison snorted the human smell away. The boy nudged against a calf who generously gave her scent to him.
Jimmy Draws-So-Small joined the Buffalo Clan in this rather unusual way.
He ran with the buffalo and rode on their backs, sometimes straddling two at a time, daring fate to play, wind speaking to his face each day and the nights better yet, with warm companions, inhaling large breaths of air, exhaling slowly, inhaling into the gentle light of day after day, until, suddenly, lightning slapped the earth and seared the sky, jerking all awake, sending broken dreams to flight, forcing hoofs to strike like thunder. Relentless lightning whipped with fury; thunder claimed its name.
The herd raced to the edge of the wood, where giant raindrops splattered in torrential streams against their fur. Shivering now, Jimmy Draws-So-Small nestled in among the hunkered herd, but peeked over a wet shoulder, spying a cave.
Cave walls are inviting, although rough to the hand. Jimmy Draws-So-Small didn’t mind as he smeared mud and dung and ocher-colored clay—capturing in broad strokes, the bison and their way. At the upper edge, he painted the entrance to a cave. Then
stepped into it and
simply slipped away.
Jimmy Draws-So-Small looked up as the teacher walked up and down the aisles looking at students’ papers. As she passed Jimmy, she put a finger to her nose, smelling musk and dung and mud and something else, she said,
smiled, gazed with satisfaction
at the print tacked to the bulletin
board on the wall—The Cave
Paintings of Lascaux—
and then placed
a new dot
Rendering Art; Rendering Life
Robin Patric Clair is the author of Organizing Silence: A world of possibilities (1998- SUNY) and editor of Expressions of Ethnography (2003-SUNY) both of which won Outstanding Book of the Year awards from the National Communication Association. Prof. Clair is also first author of the book, Why Work: The perceptions of a ‘real job’ and the rhetoric of work through the ages (2008-Purdue University Press) and teaches narrative theory, ethnography and diversity at Purdue University.