How to listen to this poem: Kite by Rives

How to listen to this poem: Kite by Rives

A high-level listening exercise. If you like Rives you can learn more about him at his website: shopliftwindchimes.com

Rarely. Sometimes. All the time.

In English classes, we rarely talk about new relationships or how we feel after we sleep with someone for the first time. But, we do sometimes talk about these things with our friends. And we think about them all the time.

Rives’ poem “Kite” is about waking up and finding a note from his new lover. She says “Good morning, Sparkle Boy! I’ll be back around noon. You—make yourself at home.” He does just that.

Enjoy listening to this funny and beautiful poem about new love. Part One has comprehension questions to help you understand the poem. Part Two gives you an exercise to help you improve your intonation, word stress, and timing skills. Finally, in Part Three there are some questions to discuss with a partner (or contemplate on your own).

Part 1: Understand the Poem

Listen to Rives’ poem here or here. Listen three times. Then listen and read it. (The transcript is at the end of this post.)

Try to answer these questions by yourself. If you have trouble, the answers are below.

Comprehension Questions

Why is the poem titled “Kite”?

Why does she call him “Sparkle Boy”? Is it a good thing?

What does it mean to “make yourself at home”? When do people use this expression?

What did the girl’s slippers look like?

What’s the difference between “shuffle” and “walk”?

When do people use the word “frankly”?

Is his tub clean or dirty? What does skanky mean?

What does “to get caught up in the romance of the suds” mean?

Why is it funny when he adds “muthafucka” (motherfucker) at the end of the translation of the Latin poetry?

What is his mood while he’s taking the bath?

He says “maybe I played with myself, but it’s not what you’re thinking.” What does he assume the audience is thinking?

What does “to get laid” mean?

Then he says he did play with himself. What did he do? What did he think of while he did it?

What’s TIVO?

What are antics?

What is the volume of the Prince CDs while he plays them? How do you know?

What is he thinking and feeling when he looks in the mirror?

What does he make for the girl?

What does it mean “I tagged that kite with my words”?

What does he want her to know?

What does “to nail a milestone” mean?

Part 2: Intonation, Word Stress, and Timing

Listen to the poem until the 1:15 mark (when his hand talks to him). Then read the poem out loud to that same point. Repeat this three times.

Then, try to say the words while you listen to Rives. Say the words at exactly the same time, and in exactly the same way, as Rives.

Repeat the process for 1:15-2:10 and 2:10-2:55.

Part 3: Discussion Questions

Do you like bubble baths?

He does many things while he’s alone in her apartment. What are all the ways that he makes himself at home?

What things would you do if this happened to you?

How have you felt just after you started dating someone (after you knew that he/she liked you too)?

After reading the poem on the kite, what kind of person do you think Rives is?

What does he want her to know about him?

How would you react if you were the girl and saw the kite when you came home?

Throughout the poem, Rives is very honest about things that we all do but never talk about. What are some examples? How does this honesty make the poem better?

The audience laughs a lot during the poem. Did you laugh? When? Why?

Kite by Rives

The morning after the first night we made love,
the
note on your pillow said:
“Good morning, Sparkle Boy!
I’ll be back around noon.
You–make yourself at home.”
And so I did.

Maybe.

I’m saying maybe I put on your slippers,
which were as comfortable as bunnies
because they were bunnies,
and then shuffled across my new favorite
hardwood floor to the bathroom
where maybe I took a bubble bath,
which is not something I can do at my place
because, frankly, my tub is way too skanky
to ever sit my bare ass down in.
And then maybe I got so caught up in the romance of the suds
I started quoting old Latin poetry from my college days
like: “fulsere quondam tibi candidi diez…”
You know, uh: “Verily the gods do favor me this morning…muthafucka!”

And then maybe I…played with myself.
But it’s not what you’re thinking–
I’m saying possibly I just sorta
stuck my hand up from the water, for some reason, and started going, like, uh, you know like, um, uh:

HAND: “Somebody got laid last night!
Ha-ha-haaaa!
You! You! You!

Or, you know, whatever.

And then maybe I…played with myself,
and it’s exactly what you’re thinking.
But if I did, it was only to put
the mental motion picture of our naked night together
on replay and replay and replay
so touching myself was just like…
Tivo in a way.

And, and, and yes, you know, I was still wet when I borrowed your bathrobe.
And yes, I scared the birds away from your balcony
with my antics, dancing full-blast
to your old Prince CD’s–
but please let’s keep that my little secret,
because nothing is as private as a solitary dance
unless–maybe–it’s standing in front of a full-length mirror
in a borrowed pair of bunny slippers,
slipping off a bathrobe and then wishing to a lightbulb
that my name, or my game, or my whatever were bigger,
wondering: “What kind of woman wants this skinny kid for a warrior?”

And so I made for you a kite, enormous,
out of coat hangers, brown paper bags
and the masking tape from that drawer in your kitchen,
and I hung it in the hallway
where you couldn’t hardly miss it,
and I tagged that kite with my words,
I wrote:

Just so you know–

My weird mind wanders and my brave heart breaks.
I’ve nailed some milestones, but I make mistakes,
Cuz I got more faults than a map of California earthquakes.

I am taking a nap beneath your covers.
Wake me if you like me.
Wake me if you want me.
Wake me if you need another poem.

Your once and future lover
has made himself at home.

Suggested Answers to Part One

Why is the poem titled “Kite”? Because at the end he makes a kite for her that expresses how he’s feeling.

Why does she call him “Sparkle Boy”? Is it a good thing? “To sparkle” means to shine like light on a diamond, so it’s a very good thing. She probably means that he is an energetic and fun guy.

What does it mean to “make yourself at home”? When do people use this expression? This expression means to act in the same ways that you act at home. For example, if you’re hungry and at a guest’s house, you probably wouldn’t just take food from the cupboard without asking. But, if they tell you to make yourself at home, then you can. People use this expression when they want their guests to feel very comfortable.

What do the girl’s slippers look like? They look like bunnies/rabbits.

What’s the difference between “shuffle” and “walk”? To shuffle means to, sort of, slide your feet in short movements over the floor. Here, he means that he is moving playfully.

When do people use the word “frankly”? Before they want to say something that is uncomfortable to say, but very honest.

Is his bathtub clean or dirty? What does skanky mean? His tub is dirty. “Skanky” means very dirty.

What does “to get caught up in the romance of the suds” mean? He means that he was feeling very romantic because of the soapy, bubbly water.

Why is it funny when he adds “muthafucka” (motherfucker) at the end of the translation of the Latin poetry? Because the Latin is so serious and very formal, the contrast of using a very informal swear word is funny.

What is his mood while he’s taking the bath? He’s very happy.

He says “maybe I played with myself, but it’s not what you’re thinking.” What does he assume the audience is thinking? “To play with yourself” means to masturbate.

What does “to get laid” mean? It means for someone to have sex with you.

Then he says he did play with himself. What did he do? What did he think of while he did it? He masturbated. He imagined the previous night with his new girlfriend.

What’s TIVO? TIVO is a device that lets you record and watch TV shows.

What are antics? Funny or silly (often annoying) actions.

What is the volume of the Prince CDs while he plays them? How do you know? It’s very loud. “Full blast” means maximum volume.

What is he thinking and feeling when he looks in the mirror? He’s wondering if he is good enough for her, if there are enough good things about him so that she’ll really want to be with him. Wishing that his “name” were bigger, means he wants to be more famous. Wishing that his “game” were bigger, means that he wants his career or skills to be bigger. Wishing that his “whatever” were bigger is a reference to his penis.

What does he make for the girl? He makes her a kite.

What does it mean “I tagged that kite with my words”? It means that he wrote words on it.

What does “to nail a milestone” mean? It means to have a big accomplishment.

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